Two Decades Later, Families Continue Their Contributions to the Greater Good of Others
Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
September 15, 2021
Those who watched the televised 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon heard family survivor, Mike Low speak about the past two decades of his family’s life and watched as he rang the bell at the exact moment when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower.
This series of articles, awareness@work, is about the evolution of consciousness in survivor support offered by businesses when tragedy strikes their workplace. Our mission is to help organizations know what to do and how to train and empower their own employees to offer as much assistance as their job descriptions allow. We learn from survivors who take time to educate us on what they found helpful and not from the organization experiencing the crisis. We are interested in response to all crises that may occur during the course of business operations—the injury or death of one person, or thousands as in the case of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The next several articles will focus on many of the improvements in humanitarian assistance response that grew out of the enormous losses that took place on American soil following 9/11, yet impacted the entire world. We begin with the family of Sara Low. Sara was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11.
The Historical Perspective
The Foundation began in the fall of 2000, and our first symposium was set for September 18-19, 2001. Following the events of 9/11, the symposium was rescheduled to January 2002. While it was well attended, it was the 2003 meeting, our second Symposium, which set the tone for our future symposia and member-partner meetings. We had the privilege to hear directly from multiple survivors who shared openly with our attendees.
We heard from many of American Airline’s CARE Team responders, including the families of Sara Low and Betty Ong. Sara and Betty perished in American Airlines Flight 11, the first flight to impact the World Trade Center in the attacks of 9/11. Over the years since then, we have met numerous family members, employees, and responders associated with both American Airlines and the two United Airlines Flights that were lost that day.
Flight Attendant Sara Low’s Father Rings the Bell Beginning the 20th Anniversary
Those who watched the televised 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon heard family survivor, Mike Low speak about the past two decades of his family’s life and watched as he rang the bell at the exact moment when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. The impact resulted in the loss of the 92 people on board and ensured the deaths of 1,402 people at and above the aircraft impact zone. Members of the Foundation who were watching Mike could not help but notice that Mike was wearing the Foundation’s logo pin, named after his daughter Sara, who was working in business class on Flight 11.
In Handbook of Human Services Response, I detail meeting Mike and Bobbie Low, Sara’s parents and her sister Alyson at the 2003 Symposium in Atlanta, GA, when they came to share about Sara and their experiences the day of the tragedy and the weeks that followed. After the meeting, Mike and Bobbie donated money to the Foundation to continue our work helping business organizations support families following tragedy, as American Airlines had done for them.
The Origin of the Foundation’s Logo Pin
As we learned more of the family’s story, and the “second assaults” as we call unintended harms in Human Services Response™ Training, we felt validated by the emotional connection between the Low’s and the employees at American Airlines, despite the mistakes. In the many discussions with Sara’s family, we were reminded of the power of a company to influence the healing of survivors, when this sacred connection is honored. This led to requesting permission to name the Foundation logo pin after Sara.
During the past twenty years, Mike has presented many times at meetings and conferences for the Foundation. He also presents on multiple video programs on his feelings about Care and Special Assistance Teams and their importance in helping families following traumatic loss in the workplace. Many of his comments are presented on the Foundation’s website, www.fafonline.org under the testimonial tab.
Mike received an email from the FBI informing him that his credit card paid for the calls to the ground…
Within the first few months following the tragedy, Mike received an email from the FBI informing him that his telephone charge card which Sara had in her possession at that time, paid for the calls to the ground on the morning of September 11. He asked to read the transcripts but was told the information was classified. At the end of 2009, Mike presented at a Foundation training class and at that time revealed that he had not yet settled his lawsuit with the government. He was determined to learn about the end of his daughter’s life which were contained in the transcripts between the flight attendants on Flight 11 and those on the ground. Finally, the judge gave Mike what he had fought nine years to obtain—the large binder containing the details of the final moments Flight 11.
They maintained a calm atmosphere in the cabin after the hijackers had taken over the flight controls.
While Mike was not able to publish the contents of the binder, he was allowed to share the details about how heroic Sara and the other flight attendants had been. He learned that the flight attendants maintained a calm atmosphere in the cabin after the hijackers had taken over the flight controls. They communicated the seat numbers of the hijackers while caring for the first-class flight attendants who were struck down, when the hijackers entered the cockpit and the horror of 9/11 became known to the world.
We were grateful to Mike for his courageous journey to learn the details of Flight 11. Mike has shared much of what he learned on a video interview for training. At the Foundation, we were delighted to see that Mike was chosen to open the 9/11 twentieth anniversary, wearing the pin that symbolizes the enormous role that company employees can play in the long-term healing of survivors.
Upcoming articles will feature additional examples of how families of victims of 9/11 have turned tragedy into opportunities for helping others.
For more about the Foundation and our upcoming Member-Partner Meeting and other programs, please contact Cheri Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at fafonline.org.