The Flight Pins

Every year, around the first week of September, I look for the flight pins.  They’re somewhere.  But I can’t immediately find them.  Eventually, by September 8th, I find them.  Both safe.  Both ready to wear.

One pin is an old United Airlines souvenir “junior pilot” pin.  The other is a gold-colored American Airlines “junior stewardess” pin.  Pins like these were given by flight attendants and pilots to little children as souvenirs – some pins given out for a kid on his/her first flight, others for a kid who was especially well-behaved.

One pin is a United Airlines pin, the other is for American Airlines.  And on Friday, I wear them in honor of the men and women whose careers involved flying those planes.  Nineteen years ago, something terrible, tragic, horrifying happened.  And those men and women lost their lives, along with all their passengers, as well as thousands of people in two towers and in a pentagon-shaped mega-structure.

These are the men and women who, on the morning of September 11, were starting their day as normal pilots and first officers and flight attendants.  Here are their names.

  • American Airlines Flight 11, that hit one of the World Trade Center towers. The 11 crew members were Captain John Ogonowski, First Officer Thomas McGuinness; and flight attendants Barbara Arestegui, Jeffrey Collman, Sara Low, Karen Martin, Kathleen Nicosia, Betty Ong, Jean Roger, Dianne Snyder, and Amy Sweeney.
  • United Airlines Flight 175, that hit one of the World Trade Center towers. The flight crew included Captain Victor Saracini, First Officer Michael Horrocks, and flight attendants Robert Fangman, Amy Jarret, Amy King, Kathryn Laborie, Alfred Marchand, Michael Tarrou, and Alicia Titus.
  • American Airlines Flight 77, that hit the Pentagon. The flight crew included pilot Charles Burlingame (a Naval Academy graduate and former fighter pilot), First Officer David Charlebois, and flight attendants Michele Heidenberger, Jennifer Lewis, Kenneth Lewis, and Renee May.
  • United Airlines Flight 93, that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The flight crew included Captain Jason Dahl, First Officer LeRoy Homer Jr., and flight attendants Lorraine Bay, Sandra Bradshaw, Wanda Green, CeeCee Lyles, and Deborah Welsh.

It’s too easy to only equate the September 11th attacks as just killing people in the World Trade Center buildings.  It was more than that.  People who worked at the Pentagon lost their lives when American 77 smashed into it.  We barely know what happened to the flight crew on United 93, only because they may have heard of the reports of the other three attacks and were barely prepared for a cabin breach.

So on this day of days, this solemn moment of reflection and introspection, I wear these two flight pins.  I wear them for the entire day.  They honor those who were hijacked and murdered in a horrific act of terrorism and genocide.

God is the light
of the heavens and the earth.
The smile of God’s light
is like a niche in which is a lamp,
the lamp in a globe of glass,
the globe of glass as if it were a shining star,
lit from a blessed olive tree
neither of the East nor of the West,
its light nearly luminous
even if fire did not touch it.
Light upon light!

How wonderful, O Lord, are the works of your hands!
The heavens declare Your glory,
the arch of the sky displays Your handiwork
In Your love You have given us the power
to behold the beauty of Your world
robed in all its splendor.
The sun and the stars, the valleys and the hills,
the rivers and the lakes all disclose Your presence.
The roaring breakers of the sea tell of Your awesome might,
the beast of the field and the birds of the air
bespeak Your wondrous will.
In your goodness you have made us able to hear
the music of the world.  The voices of the loved ones
reveal to us that you are in our midst.
A divine voice sings through all creation.

May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I be aware of my true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing to others.
May I dwell in the Breath of God.