First (Mainline) Flight.

Year Three. Month Five. #MCO.

My little regional jumpseat. I had a lot of adventures sitting here.
Five days ago I sat in a circle of soon-to-be flight attendants, sharing stories of incredible journeys and meaningful moments with customers. I told the story of my first flight, ever.

It was two years ago, and I was working my first leg of IOE from Minneapolis to Williston. It was at the height of the oil boom, and my little regional airline was the link between the big city and the oil fields in the Dakotas.

Halfway through this flight I was walking through the cabin, collecting trash. A weathered young man sat in the exit row, his tray table full of what looked like old photographs and letters. He gripped the pile of papers so hard they were wrinkled and torn. I asked if I could dispose of anything for him.

You think this job is all about uniforms and heels but it's actually about a lot more.
He turned to me, tears running down his tan face. He shoved the photos in my face and I glanced into the faces of a young, beautiful woman and a tiny little boy. Their smiles were all youth and hope and life.

"Tell me that they were real. Tell me that they were beautiful," the young man asked, his voice breaking.

I nodded, unsure of what to do; unsure of what this man wanted of me.

"They were my life. And they were killed last week by a drunk driver." And with that the young man lowered his head into his hands and sobbed.

My IOE instructor stopped by to ask why I was sitting. I turned to her, unaware of the tears on my cheeks and informed her that I would be sitting here for the rest of the flight.

It takes a lot of courage and heart to care for fifty passengers all by yourself.
And so I sat. And I held his hand. And I never said a word while he cried.

There simply were no words.

As I told this story to the other trainees in my flight attendant class, I cried. I cried a lot. I hadn't told that story to very many people, and for some reason it seemed real all over again. You never really get to know what happens to these people that you share a moment with at 36,000 feet. You hold their hand, you cry with them, you bring champagne for the newlyweds, tissues for the newly widowed. You bring the terminally ill man to his Hawaii vacation and notice that he has not booked a return ticket. You hold the brand new baby, the mom almost too nervous to leave for two minutes to use the restroom. She hasn't slept in a week. You celebrate with them, you comfort them, you mourn with them. You keep them as safe as you can and you are always ready to jump into action, whether it's a medical emergency or a personal emergency or they just want a Diet Coke.

Because you also serve Diet Cokes.

From regional ramp life to jetways and 737s.
So you do everything you can and then you say goodbye at the door.

Five days ago I told the story of my first flight. Three days ago I walked across a stage and got my wings. Two days ago Crew Scheduling called me and assigned me my first flight. Again.

Yesterday, I worked my first flight.

Seattle to Orlando. It was going to be a full flight, and as soon as I checked in with the gate agents, they asked if we could board early.

"We have a customer in an aisle chair, and he's also our Make-A-Wish Foundation child. His family will be boarding early with him."

Let's go places and make wishes come true!
I nodded and hurried onto the plane. I preflighted my equipment and stood near row nine, where Arturo and his family would be sitting. A moment later, Arturo came aboard in an aisle chair. He was fifteen and still retained that bit of sweet childhood charm about him. He was a bit smaller than most fifteen-year-old boys, but I could see that he would be a charming young man someday.

But for now, his body was pretty busy fighting for his life.

As Arturo was transferred to his seat, he looked back and flashed his silver braced smile at me. He had two little brothers, five and six, who were scampering into their seats. Arturo's parents sat down next, their faces still young but their foreheads forever lined with the deep canyons of the tremendous stress of their child facing such a terrible illness. Next came Big Sister. Most seventeen-year-old girls would be more concerned with Snapchat and eye makeup but Big Sister was carrying bags with medicine and equipment for her brother, bags of toys for the little guys and paperwork for everyone in the family.

My new favorite co-worker, Mario. What an awesome guy to work with!
I introduced myself and explained the safety features of the aircraft while pausing every few sentences so that Big Sister could get her brother settled in and interpret my safety briefing into Spanish for her parents.

Throughout the flight I felt myself drawn to the family. My wonderful co-worker, Mario, chatted the parents up in their native tongue and made them feel at ease. I talked to Arturo about which theme parks he wanted to visit in Orlando and laughed as the little brothers fought over the window seat. When I got a chance, I pulled Big Sister aside to ask how she was doing.

Her eyes got big as she looked around to see who I was talking to. I laughed as I repeated the question. She stuttered, shy, but managed to tell me about graduating high school this past spring. I excitedly asked her about college, and what she wanted to do.

Where are you going today? And where will you go tomorrow?
"Well, I got accepted to a couple of my dream schools. But you know..." and she trailed off, looking down. There was silence for a moment.

"Well, I think I might just go to community college for a while and stick around home," Big Sister finally finished, still looking down. I nodded and gave her a hug. Then she looked up. "But I've always wanted to be a flight attendant someday. You know, so I can help people!" She grinned, a dimple appearing on the left side of her chin, just like her brother's smile.

My heart.

Just trying to live up to the motto on my nametag. #iamalaska
I had a great time with Arturo and his family. As they deplaned, Arturo grinned and raced off down the jetway in his power wheelchair, his dad yelling for him to put his seat belt on. Big Sister took a moment to herself to take a selfie. Mom called for the little brothers to stop running and asked Dad when they could pick up the rental car.

Just a normal moment for this family. And so needed.

And I said goodbye.

Here's to a thousand more special moments, heartwrenching moments, hopeful moments, normal moments and everything in between.

Here's to the meaningful moments.

Happy flying!


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