Aviation employees remember 9/11


| csantucci@queenscourier.com |

Jet Blue flight attendant Suhadee Henriquez was flying cross-country on the morning of September 11, 2001 as four aircrafts were hijacked by terrorists.
“I watched everything unfold,” Henriquez said. “I had to keep calm even though I didn’t know what was happening.”
Like the hijacked planes, the 727 that Henriquez was working on was well fueled and packed with passengers, and as her travelers began to piece together the details of the day from watching their personal TV sets, panic set in at 37,000 feet, she told aviation officials and Vaughn College students at an event on Wednesday, September 4.
“I turned around and looked at the TV and the second airplane hit,” Henriquez said.
Once on the ground again, airline workers had to prepare themselves for the daunting task of returning to the skies.
“[Aviation employees] they are the people working round the clock; they are working on the holidays, in bad weather, and they work if there is an accident,” said Warren Kroeppel, the General Manager of LaGuardia Airport. “Their first instinct is to keep the system moving.”
So in 2001, Henriquez began a voluntary survey of her co-workers’ emotions and their feelings about the media coverage of the terrorist attacks.
“The flight attendants, pilots and airline passengers were almost erased. You just don’t talk about those people,” Henriquez said.
Among the estimated 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there were 266 plane passengers, 25 flight attendants and eight pilots on the four hijacked aircrafts.
Henriquez and author, Tom Murphy, who penned “Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Stories of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying,” wanted to remember those lost and help others deal with their grief and anxiety by telling their stories and supporting one another.
“Before 9/11, we all came and went, safe in our daily routines. We lived with certain core beliefs, unquestioned - safety within our borders included - or at least I did,” Murphy wrote in his book. “Then came ‘After,’ and with that came ‘Anger.’ Anger left unchecked can corrode the soul.
In order to foster discussion, Murphy speaks regularly at events - like the one at Vaughn College - to engage people like Aviation High School students, who will likely enter the aviation work force in a few years.
“From Aviation High School, they saw the towers being hit and they saw the towers going down,” said Principal Eileen Taylor. “That is why this is very relevant to them.”