I work on the airplane, but this is better than flying. Especially today. I slip between the waves and the very atmosphere, now thick and green, lifts me up. I hover above the turtles, roll among them, dive. Under the dancing shadows of the great round shells, I look up; the sun behind them sparkles impossibly close, riding the waves just like the blondies on their longboards up the beach. I hear wet, the occasional wave, but little else. No cacophony, certainly no cries, here where there are no skyscrapers, and, in any case, no airplanes to fly through them.
I don’t expect that I shall ever forget being jarred awake with the news that my workplace had been flown through the side of someone else’s, resulting, naturally, in the fiery destruction of both. In the ensuing worldwide panic, fear, and sorrow, the airplanes (and, lest we forget, the people on them) were quickly reduced to little more than the visually arresting catalysts of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but to airline employees, and to air crews in particular, September 11th is an especially sacred day of remembrance and reflection. In a way that the media rarely does, we remember our co-workers and the sacrifices they were called upon to make. Pilots and flight attendants who lost their lives in the line of duty in ways that we had never previously been called upon to imagine (murdered point-blank with box cutters, used as components of flying Molotov cocktails, disintegrated in a Pennsylvania field helping to fight for positive control of an airplane-turned-missile in a world gone mad) and that since we are forced to confront every day. We empty our pockets and take off our shoes and isolate our laptops and publicly submit to an elaborate security screening ritual, knowing that box cutters are permitted in passengers’ carry-on luggage, an unfathomably boneheaded First Step in allowing the entire horrifying process to one day repeat.
It is my intention each year on September 11th to remember the sacrifice and honor the lives of the 25 flight attendants who were killed. I knew none of them, and if I’m completely honest, my professional respect for each of them and my sincere sympathy for their friends and families is tempered still by a profound gratitude that flooded me as I stood at a payphone in a Big Island laundromat eleven years ago, weak in the knee and weeping with relief that I recognized none of their names. I honor them as colleagues and ache at the idea of a fear that I can’t fully conceptualize and hope never to glimpse, but true grief for them belongs to others, and is mine neither to appropriate nor to define. Continue reading