Saying goodbye to Dad, 15 years later
Los Angeles-based Flight Attendant Natasha Gagarin was working a flight in 2002 when her father passed away. She never got to say goodbye. Fast forward 15 years, Natasha was seated at a gate at Newark Liberty International Airport awaiting the flight to Houston she was set to work earlier this summer when an elderly man in a wheelchair was dropped off at the gate. The man, customer Nick McEneaney, was grieving when he arrived at the gate. He was on his way to a friend's place in Texas from Dublin, Ireland, where he'd just buried his daughter.
Unfortunately, the flight was delayed four hours and had a gate change. Natasha ensured the 95-year-old Mr. McEneaney was where he needed to be, when he needed to be there. "Kindness doesn't cost a thing," Natasha said, "but its value is priceless."
Natasha, a single mother of four, was looking forward to getting home to her kids in Southern California that night after the flight to Houston. Due to the four-hour delay at Newark's Airport, Mr. McEneaney was going to miss his Houston—Brownsville/South Padre Island, Texas flight, which was the last of the night. "I just knew there was no way he was going to get to his hotel without assistance," Natasha recalled.
Putting her own plans aside for the moment, she contacted Crew Scheduling to request that she remain with Mr. McEneaney for the night to help with the rest of his journey. Unfortunately, there were no more rooms available at the hotel where Mr. McEneaney was staying so Natasha volunteered to sleep on a couch in the hotel lobby. She helped him into his room, poured him water and gave him a toothbrush and toothpaste.
She called to wake him up the next morning at 6:20 a.m., but unfortunately, his morning flight to Brownsville/South Padre Island was canceled. Able to re-book him on the next flight a couple hours later, Natasha took him to the airport, got him in a wheelchair, through security and then had breakfast with him.
Fifteen years had passed since Natasha lost her father, but the pain of never getting to say goodbye had never relented. "Mr. McEneaney reminded me so much of my dad in his mannerisms and beliefs," Natasha said. After breakfast, it was time for Mr. McEneaney to board his flight and it was time to say goodbye. "When I had to say goodbye to Nick, I finally felt like I got to say goodbye to my dad," Natasha said.
Tears streaming down both of their faces, Mr. McEneaney called Natasha an angel for helping after he'd just buried his daughter, and she told him he was her angel for finally saying goodbye to her dad. A few weeks later, Mr. McEneaney was ready to leave his friend's residence in Texas and finally return home to the Seattle area. Natasha received word of this and wanted to surprise him by traveling with him on his Houston-Seattle flight.
She worked with the Los Angeles inflight base and Crew Scheduling teams to make the special reunion a reality. Countless tears, many hugs and one dinner later, Natasha had gotten Mr. McEneaney home. "I live by the simple motto of 'be kind to others,'" Natasha said, "Your unassuming act of kindness might become someone's memory of a lifetime." It also just might become your memory of a lifetime.
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.