Flight attendant reflects on fallen friends, new responsibilities after 9/11

Print
Email
|

by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

wfaa.com

Posted on September 7, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 2 at 4:41 PM

EULESS — Not since September 11, 2001 has Laura Glading spent any time to reflect at Ground Zero.

"A couple of times I've actually stopped and looked through the fence," she said. "I kind of feel the memories coming back and say, 'Not yet.'"

The World Trade Center site was still a smoldering pile of twisted steel and broken concrete the last time Glading got to visit.

"It was a very eerie feeling walking through the rubble and the dust to get there," she remembered. "I did feel sort of like an intruder in that the police, firemen and soldiers seemed to have their task and they were busy and here we were a bunch of crew members in uniform walking along through the dust."

She and other airline crewmembers were there to honor their colleagues who died that day by throwing roses into the rubble.

"We all spoke when we threw the..." Glading paused to collect herself. "I think I'm going to start to cry."

"Knowing that I was so close to these people and having spoken to so many of their family members, I just felt like I was delivering a message on their behalf," she said.

Glading is a New Yorker, a veteran flight attendant for American Airlines, and the current president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

"It's not a time you want to go back and feel those feelings again. It's kind of hard," she said.

American Airlines lost 17 crewmembers on that September morning ten years ago.

Hijackers flew American Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

"We had procedures that were in place for hijacking," Glading explained, "but nothing in our training... nothing in our lives could have prepared us for what happened that day."

The tragedy began when terrorists sent American Flight 11 disappearing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

"When I saw Dianne's name... a couple of the flight attendants I had met, but Dianne I knew pretty well," Glading said, talking about Dianne Snyder, a 19-year veteran of American Airlines.

The Boston-based flight attendant was a married mother of two, an avid tennis player and one of nine flight attendants on the 767 that hit the skyscraper.

When the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, Glading said she lost another friend, Patrick O'Keefe, a New York firefighter who attended school with her.

She watched it all happen on television in North Texas that morning as she helped prepare for a vote on a new APFA contract.

"We still had airplanes in the air at that time. We were all very nervous and concerned," Glading said. "We were just trying to monitor who was on what plane. As they landed, we checked off that this crew was safe and that crew was safe."

Glading will return to the WTC site for Sunday's ceremony and wants to focus attention on the courage of her colleagues days after the disaster.

"I just always wondered why the public hasn't realized the absolute courage of the crewmembers to come back to work that quickly," she said.

September 11 redefined roles for flight attendants. They're also first responders, providing cabin security. They thwarted the shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, from detonating his black high-top shoes in December 2001.

Still, the 9/11 tragedy pulls Glading in two directions now.

She's adamant about keeping the memory of the crewmembers alive.

But, like many — even ten years later — she still finds it difficult to confront raw emotion and unchecked feelings from that day.

E-mail  jwhitely@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|