I met Chloe Berta in 1994 when she arrived one morning to start a summer internship. Chloe had an interest in architecture and I had helped her to secure an internship where I was employed in Seattle. Until recently, I had no idea how close she would later be to the tragedy of 9/11.
Chloe had become a United Airlines flight attendant in 1995. On the morning of 9/11, she attended the pre-flight meeting with the crew of UAL flight 175, as she regularly did, for her routine flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Yet, on this morning, as she sat with her co-workers, she was told she wasn’t making the flight. A friend had failed to correctly schedule her on this day and she was now scheduled to take the 1 pm flight. As her crew friends left the room and waited for the elevator to take them to the plane, she said goodbye. Shortly afterwards, flight 175 would be the second plane to fly into the World Trade Center.
Like most, I was stunned to first learn of the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Chloe to learn the second plane was UAL flight 175.
In a recent article that she wrote for the Marin Independent Journal, she shares that the experience of narrowly missing the flight that ended the lives of so many, including the crew she normally flew with, was traumatizing. It shook her faith in an all-protecting God and left her asking, “Why them and not me?”
Chloe continued: “Now, I’m married and am the mother of three children and my perspective has evolved. I want to be able to hold unto something more concrete than the feeling that at any moment it could be my turn to die – or my kids or husband! Now, 10 years later, I feel like I have come full circle in my belief system. I know that love is real and hope is alive and these qualities are universal and powerful. No matter what our experiences dictate, whether it be living or dying at any particular moment, the qualities that make up who we are continue to survive and live on forever, even if our experience is that we’ve moved from this earth. My fellow flight attendants on UAL Flt 175, Amy K., Michael, Alicia, Robert, Alfred, Kathryn, Amy J., and pilots, Victor and Michael, and all those who lost their lives on 9/11 are still with me today, alive in my thought. I’ve heard that the present is called the present because it is a gift and I try to remind myself of that every day – I have so much to be grateful for.”
In thinking back on 9/11, I’ve always remembered the spirit that unified New York City and our nation. I recall the messages of support from around the world and the selfless and courageous acts of love and caring by so many that followed. These expressions of nobility are who we are and what I choose to remember most.
Having known Chloe and having read of her changed perspective on the events of that day, the tragedy of 9/11 has also touched me in a new way. In honor of the children who lost a parent, spouses who lost a loved one or those who lost a child – I feel an even stronger commitment to continue that spirit of love for one another in my own life.