Finding Joy in Giving
By Amy Anderson
American Airlines Flight Attendant
My two children were 5 and 3 on 9/11. My eldest, a boy, has autism. When my
second child was born - about the time we realized our first had autism - I cut back on my flying schedule with American Airlines out of Boston. For three years, beginning with the birth of my second child, I flew one flight and one flight only each month - it was Flight 11, the non-stop from Logan to LA.
During that time, my life was a juggling challenge. Even with the one flight a month, I still had to explore therapy options with my son, while attending to an infant. Life was hectic and constantly I wondered how I would ever manage - then came 9/11. That day shook me to the core, to lose such close friends, and to know the flight so intimately. For three years it was the only flight I had worked. That's all I could think of, that plane. Gate 32. What the light was like each morning, once a month, when I had stepped aboard.
To lose friends. That was the overpowering part. Our base is a small one. We are so close. I doubted whether I could ever recover.
I flew again three weeks after that day. It was early October of 2001, and I flew that day, because I wanted to, but then I decided that my life was passing me by too quickly. After the loss of 9/11, I wasn't giving my full attention to the truly important things, like my family. After 9/11, I made a decision to take a leave of absence from flying and devote myself full time to helping autistic children.
What an inspiration it has been. On the South Shore, where I live, I was already a founding board member of the Autism Center of the South Shore (ACSS.) This non-profit support center located in Weymouth, Massachusetts offers programs, support groups, a lending library, a website, educational seminars and various events throughout the year for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their family members. I had been an active member, since we first learned of our son's autism, but now I wanted to devote exclusive energy to this cause.
One of the first things I did was become a co-captain of a team with seventy-five plus people who participate each year in the Greater Boston NAAR (National Alliance for Autism Research) Walk. I feel good that I personally was able to raise $29,000 for research. Moreover, our team became the third highest fundraising team in Massachusetts. In addition, my best friend and I have designed an autism awareness bracelet in conjunction with a well-known local jewelry designer. A portion of the proceeds go to NAAR. We have sold many and continue to sell them.
As I dove into these efforts, little by little I felt myself getting better. Not better, because you never get better, one can never get over a loss like that day, but better in the sense that contributing to a positive cause has helped me move forward again.
I concluded my leave of absence and have returned to flying again. I am back at Logan once more, doing my job.
I'm back up in the air again.
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