Site aims to help airlines' workers cope post-9/11
Friday, May 05, 2006

Star-Ledger Staff

Airline employees still troubled by the events of 9/11 are being offered a modern remedy: an electronic message board where they will be encouraged to vent, share and, hopefully, find comfort.

Tom Murphy, who met thousands of airline workers over the 10 years he ran a customer service training program at Newark Liberty International Airport, has a year-old Internet Web site,

Now, he plans to add a message board specifically for airline employees. The message board, which is being executed with the help of, will be launched May 12. "What I've come to learn is burying it doesn't work," Murphy said. "The message board will be a resource. It will give people a chance to express themselves and draw support from other people's words."

At Newark Liberty International Airport, where a ceremony will be held to launch the message board, the airlines employ an estimated 22,000 people. Murphy said he was "staggered" by the terrorism attacks and its profound impact on the people he knew in the airline industry. Two years after 9/11, he wrote a book on healing as a way of coping with it. The message board is an extension of the work he did on the book.

"I think there's still a lot of emotion under the radar that people are carrying," Murphy said. "I think if people have questions about how to heal, other people say, 'Move on, get over it.'"

The message board will provide airline employees with an electronic meeting place where they can discuss their feelings, he said. It will be erected at a time when movies such as "United 93," as well as the upcoming fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, could revive anxieties and emotions.

"There is still a lot of grief," said Eileen Ammiano, a former flight attendant with United Airlines who now works as guest services manager at the Hilton in Short Hills. "In my everyday travels, I still run across people whose life isn't the same."

Judee Beyer, vice president of a nonprofit charity foundation for United flight attendants, said the airline industry has changed since 9/11, especially in how employees are trained and how they view their work.

"I think a lot of us feel this is not what we signed up for. We didn't sign up to be flying police officers," Beyer said. And yet, she added, "I don't think I'll ever board a plane without looking at everyone of my passengers and making sure they all seem okay."

Susan Todd can be reached at or (973) 392-4125.

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