Thursday, September 11, 2008


This morning as I worked a 757 to Chicago I remembered the morning 7 years ago when I was working a 757 (maybe the same one) to Denver. I didn't have my cell phone with me, it was in the car charging. After all, I was only doing a turn (airline speak for an out and back in one day trip) and I was going to be back before school let out so I wouldn't need it anyway. The Captain called and let us know that a plane had hit the World Trade Center but he didn't know anything else, but to be aware of anything strange. They even thought it could have been a private aircraft accident. Then he called back to let us know that another plane had hit the tower and that we were to look out for possibilities of having hijackers on our very own plane. No details were known except that the rumor was that the first one belonged to American Airlines. Chills went down our spines as we walked through the aisles looking over our passengers. We were headed to Denver which was supposed to be our destination anyway, and we knew that our plane as well as all the other planes wouldn't be leaving again at least for awhile that day. We were told that we might be on the ramp for awhile as they didn't know how many airplanes were going to be at the gates, we might have to wait for them to unload one to get us in. It was incredibly scary to have to look out for something that you didn't know what you were looking for.

Up until then our training on hijackings had been pretty much based on the usual "take me somewhere and then I'll let you go" of bygone days. At that moment we knew that probably wasn't the case from that point forward. Obviously the training hadn't taken this kind of thing into account...and boy was I mad when I found out that a hotel room in Indonesia was raided 5 years prior with plans for this scheme. Why weren't we trained for the possibility? But I digress.

When we landed, the flight attendant that I was sitting with on the jumpseat said (and how right he was) "you know, when they open that door, our lives will have changed forever." I was worried about making arrangements for child care for my children as soon as we got in so the full effect of what he said didn't sink in right away.

The gate agent told us that they were grounding the entire fleet, in fact, all US carriers were grounding their planes. The passengers were greeted by the agents and told what to do and our crew all went to the crew lounge to watch the coverage on the TV there. There were so many crews that people were sitting on the floor, standing, perched everywhere. We watched as "our" (yes, we are a big family) 767 hit the 2nd tower again and again in horror. We knew that the crewmembers on that plane (and we didn't know who they were yet), though trained in Medical and other emergency procedures, were certainly not ready for whatever had happened aboard. They undoubtedly had done their best to calm and comfort the passengers, but they had died a horrible death, and our training had been sadly lacking for this kind of thing. The next plane hit the Pentagon while we were nervously waiting for news of the the flights that were not answering radio calls, one of them was ours. In aviation, there is a bond between crews, regardless of the Airline that you work for. We were hurting for American and they for us. Needless to say there were a lot of tears shared in that room. Too much to absorb? But it was only the beginning. The towers collapsing and flight 93 going into the ground outside of Shanksville, PA were next. We were all numb.
(This is the actual airplane that was used for flight 93, and yes, I'd flown on it in the past.)

The crew desk (thank goodness those folks were right there and not "consolidated" in an office in Chicago yet) helped all the crews find lodging which was quite a task, and our crew went out to Golden because there were no rooms available closer in. The sky was quiet and empty, and very eerie. I had to run to the market and the store to get some clothes and supplies, I was supposed to be home that night so I didn't have much with me. Many businesses were closed due to the fear that there would be more attacks other places in the country, other were closed just due to shock and sadness.

The next days were a blur or meetings with grief counselors, supervisors, and watching the sad drama unfold on TV while eating bad room service meals and trying to read whatever book I'd had with me in my tote bag, I don't even remember what it was now. I just didn't want to come out into the public, I didn't want to talk about it anymore, I just wanted to be numb. We eventually moved downtown as rooms vacated and that was a plus so I could get a few more changes of undies and not have to wash them nightly in the sink! Our union had a room in one of the nearby hotels where we would go for information and support, it was good to have them there, but difficult to share this drama with the flight attendants that knew the Denver based pilots (the Captain of 93's wife was a flight attendant, one of the passengers' mom was a flight attendant, I could go on). When the names were released, I realized I'd known and worked with both pilots and a few of the Boston based flight attendants that were on 93, and probably knew by face if not by name some of the crew on the 767 that went down in New York.

Just one of the extended family that I knew, CeCe was our "extra" (a flight attendant that joins a base crew because the trip calls for a bigger airplane for that one flight-sometimes from a different base) every week for a month, and I really enjoyed her, we bonded very quickly on those long flights. It's one thing to not see someone for awhile because you're flying a different schedule, quite another to realize they're gone forever. She had been a police officer in Florida, and some of the Baltimore flight attendants got in touch with her family as she also was retired from the police, and brought gifts that Christmas down for her husband and kids.

As more and more information surfaced about the attacks, we learned more about how the crews, especially those working up front, suffered even though in some cases the crews in coach didn't even know what was going on until later on. They took the cabin curtains out for that reason! The flight attendants were attacked in order to get the cockpit door open and gain access in some cases, and the purser on 93 was bleeding from having her throat slashed prior to the cockpit being taken over...that's the diversion that was used. Needless to say, I can't share very much, but we are all that much more secure for all that learning, and many of those rules that you passengers don't always like would make sense if you only knew.
(The resting site of Flight 93 with the cleanup and recovery people still there. The flag hangs from an old quarry crane that was there at the time and as far as I know, still flies the flag. I flew today, didn't get to go up there to the service)

I stayed in Denver until Friday, talking frequently to my kids and to my husband who was on a trip himself, wanting desperately to be home but the airport stayed closed until Friday. I flew the Purser position on the first flight from Denver to Washington to leave, a 777 airplane with a fairly junior and shaken crew, what a day! Some of the passengers that were on my flight from Baltimore were on that flight going back East, and we took comfort in the familiarity of the faces, we talked, we hugged, and some of those wonderful passengers are my friends to this day. It was tough to watch the news coverage when I got home, and I really didn't want to talk about it at all with anyone that was not in the airline industry because they just didn't understand so much. I really didn't want to talk about it and rehash it over and over, but every place I went people asked me about it. It was just too painful right then.

It's still tough to see all the accolades going out only to the firemen, the police, the rescuers, the brave souls that risked their lives to save others, when I also remember the brave crew members that lost their lives trying to make enough sense of what was going on to help themselves and their passengers during those fateful flights. We know that the flight attendants and the passengers were trying to take back the cockpit before flight 93 crashed (and theories abound about exactly what happened). We know, for example, that CeCe was using the coffee makers to brew up scalding water to use to help, she told her husband that while they were still in the air. I'm sure that everything the crews did was in their usual "safety professional" role with the passengers their first concern. The first to die were the flight attendants, and then the pilots, they were the ones attacked before the crashes. They were truly the first responders. It is no less sad to have lost a loved one in the Twin Towers or Pentagon, not a bit less horrible. I just feel like the crews weren't sufficiently recognized.

The passengers on our flights right after 9/11 were fantastic, asking if they could help, being understanding, needing their own reassurances, and we didn't have an ounce of issues with unruliness or rudeness for a month or so. Things are not quite the same today. Yet we'll be the first responders again if need be, and thankfully our training has changed for the better, our focus has strengthened, don't you worry.

But the next time that a flight attendant asks you to do something that he/she is required by law (or even not necessarily a legal issue) to do, please just smile and comply, regardless of if you agree with the regulation or not. It might be that person has just worked 14 hours and multiple flights that day, and is there for the love of the job because they had his/her pay cut 20-40% since 2001, and it might also be that he/she will be in the next run of layoffs due to fuel prices. They're just doing their job, and trying to do it well. It hasn't gotten easier since that day 7 years ago, if anything it's much more difficult with the additional safety and security responsibilities that we have. And remember that that flight attendant is your first line of defense in the case of an emergency. And when you're getting off the airplane and we're saying thank you for flying, rather than rudely making no eye contact or acknowledgement, at least smile and nod. Because we're working every day to make sure that there isn't another 9/11 on our airplanes.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Happy Girlfriend's Day

And to my dear girlfriends, Happy Girlfriend's day, take a moment out to smile and know you are loved. :)

It is good to be a woman:
1. We got off the Titanic first.
2. We can scare male bosses with the mysterious gynecological disorder excuses.
3. Taxis stop for us.
4. We don't look like a frog in a blender when dancing.
5. No fashion faux pas we make, could ever rival the Speedo.
6. We don't have to pass gas to amuse ourselves.
7. If we forget to shave, no one has to know.
8. We can congratulate our teammate without ever touching her rear end.
9. We never have to reach down every so often to make sure our privates are still there.
10. We have the ability to dress ourselves.
11. We can talk to the opposite sex without having to picture them naked.
12. If we marry someone 20 years younger, we are aware that we will look like an idiot.
13. We will never regret piercing our ears.
14. There are times when chocolate really can solve all your problems.
15. We can make comments about how silly men are in their presence because they aren't listening anyway.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Camera issues

My apologies, I won't be able to blog very much for a while. I dropped my camera and it is broken beyond repair (second one I've dropped in less than a year). Until I can find a new one and get it sent to me, I won't be able to post any pictures. I'll be up and running as soon as I can. :)

Very interesting: By a woman that's known Palin for years and years

This article was a very interesting read by someone that has known Ms. Palin for 16 years. I just worked a flight back from Minneapolis/St. Paul on Friday with loads of folks coming back from the convention, and I wanted more information on this newcomer so I started looking around. Thought I'd share. It was published in the LA Progressive newspaper. - V

About Sarah Palin
September 3, 2008
by Anne Kilkenny –

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe.”

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome . There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her six years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal–loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was criticizing her pay as too high in the press . I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiative that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

Claim versus Fact:

“Hockey mom”: true for a few years
“PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
“NRA supporter”: absolutely true
Social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconstitutional).
Pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
“Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
Political maverick: not at all
Gutsy: absolutely!
Open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
Has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
A “Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
Fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
Pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
Pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
Pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
Pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.
Why Am I Writing This?
First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall–they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000″, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

by Anne Kilkenny
August 31, 2008

Reprinted by permission of the author.

Disclaimer: The LA Progressive has no way to certify this report beyond a recommendation we received.