This year, instead of a 2-day in-person event, our team connected over an hour and a half lunch, beginning w/ some company updates, ending w/ breakout small-group discussion sessions in Zoom meeting rooms + in between, were surprised w/ an unconventional + extremely inspirational guest speaker.
Our guest speaker was Jeff Miller, a friend of someone on our team, + a passenger on the July 19, 1989 United Airlines flight 232 from Denver to Chicago, that crash-landed at Sioux City, Iowa’s Gateway Airport after a tail engine explosion + subsequent loss of hydraulic control.
The point of Jeff sharing this story w/ our team specifically at this point in time (mid-pandemic) was to hear a firsthand experience of someone who lived through something intense + traumatic in their life, as well as to hear the key takeaways + what he learned from it.
Ever since hearing this story, I’ve been in a deep YouTube hole, watching tons of videos about it as well as digging up a bunch of articles on the crash, so I’ll share some of those links at the end in case anyone reading this is just as interested as I am!
(side note – my dad is from Iowa, and told me that one of his friends’ father was one of the four pilots on this flight + one of the people who survived – but not the captain shown in the video below)
Jeff begins by telling us there was a really loud explosion at the back of the plane when they were about 40 mins. away from the destination (Chicago), but the plane wasn’t falling out of the sky and no one seemed to be reacting much, so he just went back to reading his book while the flight attendants were collecting lunch trays. Everything seemed fairly normal.
He says then there was an announcement made that they’d be making an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa, but he figures ’emergency landing’ was the airline just being precautious due to the explosion, because everything was going as per usual since then. They were also informed they may be instructed to exit the aircraft by sliding down the emergency slide + he was looking forward to getting to use this slide you always see in the emergency instruction videos + pamphlets because how many people get to do that?!
So, he says, the passengers were expecting a hard landing + he was expecting to be slightly delayed from arriving at his destination due to this one additional stop they needed to make. He wasn’t really concerned until the crew yelled out “Brace, brace, brace!” right as they were landing + everyone was told to bend over + grab their ankles.
The plane then stood up on its nose, did a cartwheel, and the wings fell off, the tail fell off, and it slid 1.8 miles down the runway. It finally landed upside-down in a cornfield to the right of the runway. Jeff says no one was panicking, that he saw, at any point – before or after.
At this point, he was still buckled into his seat + was hanging from the ceiling. His white gym shoes were still white, jeans were spotless, hair still looked combed + didn’t have a scratch on him. Only 13 people walked away that day w/ zero injuries.
(In case you’re a nervous flyer like myself, he told us he was sitting in Row 16G.)
The news first reported that everyone was dead. His parents saw the reports that there were no survivors. Right when they were about to relay the news to his wife + children, he called on the phone to tell them he’s alive/what happened (he wasn’t sure if they even knew or had heard anything about it yet).
Jeff was the only person not to sue the airlines. He was probably the only person on the flight to not experience any loss – incredibly, he even got his luggage back. He also added that he wasn’t originally even going to be on this flight + chose it because he knew that a DC-10, which is a wide-body… would have a better lunch. 🤯
“I believe I survived to talk to you about this today.”
He said whenever he is available + can possibly speak about this, he does, because in a brief moment of the crash, when he realized what was happening, he had made a promise to God to tell his story if he survived. He hopes even one person hearing it will be inspired, think about the world differently + change something in their life.
“Everyone has a purpose, but it’s up to you to capture it.”
He explains that your destiny very well may be different from what you think it is.
“You become what you think about.”
If you believe things will never be okay, then they won’t be. If you think negative thoughts, you’ll live in negativity.
“We are all here at this time for a reason.”
Respond to your current situation/the pandemic in the best way you can.
The Power Of Forgiveness –
Ask for forgiveness. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Free yourself. Let people know you forgive them, even if they don’t ask for it/reach out to you to apologize.
Be Kind –
Be thoughtful. Go the extra mile. We don’t always need to be setting people straight all the time. Smile. Talk to people nicely. And talk to people wherever you go.
“Life isn’t what we think it is.”
Additional material to check out:
“A Fresh Dose of Perspective” – Carol Stream Chamber
Here the captain speaks about the handful of things that went right the day of the crash – that had to go right – for there to be any survivors.
This Nightline clip gathers a few different perspectives + how their lives were altered by the crash.
Over The Top – Jonathan Van Ness
Necessary People – Anna Pitoniak
Find Me – André Aciman (CMBYN sequel)
Would I Lie To You? The Amazing Power Of Being Honest In A World That Lies – Judi Ketteler
Fair Play – Eve Rodsky
Connect First: 52 Simple Ways To Ignite Success, Meaning, And Joy At Work – Melanie A. Katzman, PHD
Surrounded By Idiots: The Four Types Of Human Behavior + How To Effectively Communicate w/ Each In Business (And In Life) – Thomas Erikson
Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly – Jim DeRogatis
X – Chuck Klosterman
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living – Meik Wiking
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes + the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Christopher McDougall
Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength + Endurance – Christopher McDougall
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) – Gretchen Rubin
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives – Gretchen Rubin
Power: Why Some People Have It –– And Others Don’t – Jeffrey Pfeffer
Flying Too Close To The Sun: Myths in Art From Classical to Contemporary – Phidon
Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hooksup, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity – Peggy Orenstein
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
“Wait, I’m The Boss?!?”: The Essential Guide for New Managers to Succeed from Day 1 – Peter Economy
Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It – Gary Taubes
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir – Anna Wiener
Physical Intelligence: The Science of How the Body + the Mind Guide Each Other Through Life – Scott Grafton
The Longing for Less: Living w/ Minimalism – Kyle Chayka
No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us – Rachel Louise Snyder
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Punished By Rewards: The Trouble w/ Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise + Other Bribes – Alfie Kohn
Recursion – Blake Crouch
Survivor: The Official Companion Book to the CBS TV Show – Mark Burnett w/ Martin Dugard<p style="font-size:1px;line-height:0.3" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="1" max-font-size="2" height="80">
The Psychology of Survivor – Richard J. Gerrig, PhD
In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
How To Break Up With Your Phone – Catherine Price
The Modern Break-Up – Daniel Chidiac
How To Be Alone – Lane Moore
When It Was Worth Playing For – Mario Lanza
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder + Memory in Northern Ireland – Patrick Radden Keefe
The Book of Rudy: The Wit + Wisdom of Rudy Boesch – Rudy Boesch + Jeff Herman
Jump In! Even If You Don’t Know How To Swim – Mark Burnett
The Stingray: The Lethal Tactics of the Sole Survivor – Peter Lance
H3 Leadership – Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. by Brad Lomenick
Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano
Friends + Strangers – J. Courtney Sullivan
Your Body in Balance – Neal D. Barnard, MD
How to Eat – Mark Bittman + David L. Katz
All Adults Here – Emma Straub
Brain Wash – David Perlmutter, MD.
Find Your FuckYeah – Alexis Rockley
Conversations w/ Friends – Sally Rooney
Broken People – Sam Lansky
The Clear Skin Diet – Nina + Randa Nelson
The Vacationers – Emma Straub
The Self-Care Solution – Jennifer Ashton, M.D., M.S.
Self Care – Leigh Stein
The Choice – Gillian McAllister
Strong is the New Beautiful – Lindsey Vonn
Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain – Sharon Begley
Something In The Water – Catherine Steadman
This Is How I Lied – Heather Gudenkauf
The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
Home Before Dark – Riley Sager
Luster – Raven Leilani
Mamba Mentality – Kobe Bryant
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close – Aminatou Sow + Ann Friedman
We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life – Laura McKowen
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation – Anne Helen Peterson
Other People’s Love Letters – Bill Shapiro
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century – Alice Wong
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart + Rediscovering Your True Self – Jackson MacKenzie
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope – Anne Lamott
You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships – Deborah Tannen
Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks + Difficult People – Bob Goff
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown
Love Poems (for Anxious People) – John Kenney
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love + Life From Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
The Power of Moments – Chip + Dan Heath
This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t – Augusten Burroughs
Good Morning, Monster: A therapist shares five heroic stories of emotional recovery – Catherine Gildner
The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed or Desperate – Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.
How to Fall in Love w/ Anyone – Mandy Len Catron
Anxious People – Fredrik Backman
The Gift of the Magi + The Purple Dress – O. Henry
ACE: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society + the Meaning of Sex – Angela Chen
Slim Down Now – Cynthia Sass
Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating – Moira Weigel
Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love From Day One – Emily Heyward
No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work – Liz Fosslien + Mollie West Duffy
Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass – Lana Del Rey
Radical Candor: Be A Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott
Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy + How We Connect w/ Others – Marco Iacoboni
TED Talks: Storytelling – Akash Karia
Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution + Triumph of Modern Female Friendship – Kayleen Schaefer
This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People – Banaji + Greenwald
The Best of Me – David Sedaris
One By One: A Memoir of Love + Loss in the Shadows of Opioid America – Nicolas Bush
How To Be A Person – Lindy West + Dan Savage
Adulthood *for Beginners: All the Life Secrets Nobody Bothered to Tell You – Andy Boyle
Sh*t, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema – Lindy West
One Person, Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success – Marci Alboher
breakfast – cup of coffee, oatmeal + vitamins (multi, probiotic)
pre-workout – Celcius energy drink (~1/2 can)
always stretch (hamstrings, calf muscles, ankles, hips), jog slowly at the start to warm up + sometimes foam rolling before (if needed)
lace-up – current shoes are Nike Free Rn 5s (longtime Free Rns fan)
music/motivation – Apple AirPods + Apple Music playlists
tracking – Nike Run Club App (distance > duration), Apple Watch Series 5
tips – if something doesn’t feel good, stop + stretch a little more. if out of breath, take a quick pause to catch it – don’t force anything! i also find i do some of my best thinking out on my runs, so i’m often writing things down on my phone in the Notes app.
muscle recovery – stretching immediately, ice specific muscles (if needed)
hydration – water, BCAA drink mix + protein shake upon return from run, later on will have water, coconut water or sugar-free Gatorade or Nuun drink tablets (electrolytes)
hygiene – try to always shower asap, but if i need to finish up the strength training portion of workout first, i make sure to still wash my face immediately to prevent pores from becoming clogged (+acne forming)
Link to original post: https://www.cod.edu/about/stories/students/clark.aspx
Degree: Associate in Arts
After finishing high school, Courtney Clark was ready for college but unsure of what to pursue.
“I felt that as a student at College of DuPage, I would be able to continue my education while exploring some different interests since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in right away,” she said. “I found out shortly later that I had received a Presidential Scholarship, which helped even further solidify my decision to attend.”
Being named a Presidential Scholar, an honor that includes a full-tuition scholarship and enrollment in COD’s Honors program and induction into the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, provided Clark with financial security while she focused on her studies. The opportunities she received at COD played key roles in her future plans.
“COD impacted my life in many ways, but the biggest lesson it taught me is that hard work really does pay off,” she said. “This knowledge, plus my ambitious spirit and encouraging professors and staff, led me to really thrive at COD both academically and in extracurriculars.
“COD also opened my eyes to the value of service. There was a required service component that accompanied the Presidential Scholars Award and I chose to volunteer at an afterschool program for kindergarteners. I enjoyed this experience so much that I taught kindergarten again after finishing school. Additionally, the Living Leadership Program helped me to identify my leadership style and valuable skills, which came in handy in both my studies and career.”
Her favorite memories came from her time at the Courier, COD’s student newspaper, where she worked as both the arts and entertainment editor and the graphics/social media editor. The experience influenced her career path.
“During my time at the Courier, I learned how to use programs such as Adobe InDesign to design my section of the paper, which I also wrote and edited. I managed freelance reporters and photographers. I gained valuable interview skills and became an expert on AP Style. I learned how to use WordPress to run the Courier website as well as post on their social media pages. I was also responsible for maintaining communication with the publisher so that each issue’s copies would be printed by the deadline,” she said. “Working for the Courier also allowed me to attend and cover on-campus events such as a talk by Ari Shapiro, NPR White House Correspondent.
“I left the Courier with both new and greatly improved skills and an extensive portfolio of my work. I can’t stress enough how greatly this prepared me for my next role as a managing editor as well as my current editing career.”
Clark was named one of COD’s Outstanding Graduate finalists and earned her Associate in Arts degree. She then transferred to University of Southern California as a Communication major and began writing for the Daily Trojan and Neon Tommy, the online student publication.
Due to a switch in major departments and institutional credit requirements, she transferred again to Roosevelt University as an English major and worked as a staff reporter and managing editor on the Roosevelt Torch. During her final semester, she wrote her thesis on John Steinbeck’s exploration of the “American dream” concept and completed a publishing internship at Featherproof books.
After graduating with Honors and a bachelor’s degree in English, Clark earned her TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification at International TEFL Academy in Chicago and moved to Thailand, where she taught English to kindergarteners.
Clark currently works at Epsilon on the email creative team, where she is a copy editor and project manager for several clients including the NFL, Dell, Seasons 52 and TaxSlayer. She recently led a Women in Leadership seminar and attended a two-day creative coding summit held at Epsilon’s Chicago office.
“I’ve always wanted to work in book publishing in New York one day and I plan to continue pursuing that dream,” she said. “In anything I do and any position I hold, my goals are to always find new challenges, improve my existing abilities and grow new skills while really making a difference and leaving an impact somewhere.”
She recommends students take advantage of College of DuPage’s affordable, high-quality education and the opportunity to explore interests, save money and gain valuable experience and connections. Clark also urges students to get involved.
“I observed many of my peers commute to and from class without discovering anything else COD has to offer, while I immersed myself in COD’s Student Life programs (Courier, Living Leadership Program, Student Ambassadors, Model UN and the French Club) and got to be part of an incredibly vibrant community. Another plus of getting involved is that many of these experiences also look really great on a resume. Make the most of your experience!”
Link to this post on ITA’s blog: https://www.internationalteflacademy.com/alumni-stories/the-start-of-a-new-chapter
By: Courtney Clark
Hi, I’m Courtney! I took my TEFL certification class in January 2016 and worked part-time for a while to save up money to teach abroad. I finally decided on Thailand as my destination because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit and the timing coincided perfectly with the start of their school semester. I left for Thailand in April 2017 and taught kindergarten until October 2017.
I had 33 students and would teach English, science, math and art lessons each week. All of the students had very unique personalities, which always kept class interesting. Some of my favorite moments include pretending to be zombies and chasing each other around on the playground, dancing to the video “Baby Shark”, and a day where everyone brought in food, and I taught the students how to make sandwiches.
From the moment I gave notice that I would be returning to the U.S., I knew it would be incredibly difficult to leave all the people I met there behind. It was so hard to say goodbye to all the friends I had made, my Thai co-teachers who had become like family to me, and my adorable little students. However, I had to leave for my own reasons, which were to be able to grow as a person in new ways and to really get started on my career.
Upon arriving home in the U.S., I immediately noticed so many differences between the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to in Thailand and the one I grew up in but that now felt so foreign to me. I forgot about the “hustle bustle,” busy, rushing lifestyle that is the norm here in the U.S. I also forgot about the importance and stress placed on productivity rather than a peaceful state of mind. I felt unsure about my ability to adapt back into such a stressful environment.
Reverse culture shock is a real thing. Whereas everyone in grocery stores in Thailand left me alone, here it felt like I was being bombarded by retail workers about store sales and being forced to remember simple things such as small talk about the weather. Whereas all the signs in Thailand were in Thai, and I learned to disregard them, now everything was bright and distracting in giant English letters. The simplest way I can describe this feeling is “sensory overload.”
However, once I finally got over my jet lag and reverse culture shock, I remembered that this fast paced lifestyle is what has always motivated me and pushed me to be the type of person I am which is constantly trying to improve and grow and learn in new, challenging ways. Although I learned so much about myself, Thai culture, the complexity and responsibility of being a teacher, and will always be overwhelmingly grateful for it all, I feel that I have found another opportunity that is a perfect fit for me at this time.
My new opportunity is a position in my field of study. I worked on school newspapers from high school all through college and really enjoyed writing and editing all sorts of different topics. Naturally, I majored in English. During my last year of college, I also completed a book publishing internship. I always thought I would continue along this line of editing/publishing but had trouble finding a job after graduation even with all my prior experience and a writing portfolio. However, once returning from Thailand, I added that experience to my resume and felt like I started to get noticed more and received more responses from jobs I applied to.
After several interviews that didn’t feel like a great fit, I finally landed on a marketing company that was looking for a copy editor. After the first interview, I could tell it would be a very exciting opportunity where I would really be able to test my copy-editing and project manager skills. I am very happy to say that everything worked out, and I am now working in my field and beginning my career. I have a picture of my teachers and students from Thailand on my desk. I am thankful every day for the experience and will never forget all that I have learned and how I got to the place I am today.
A lot of people ask me if I would ever teach abroad again and the answer is a giant YES!!! I don’t have any plans to in the near future, but it is a priceless life experience I would absolutely love to try again later in my life. I highly recommend it to everyone I meet.
Sabai sabai (a common Thai phrase meaning “everything’s good” or “not a care in the world”)
Courtney Clark is 25 from Bloomingdale, IL,with a BA in English from Roosevelt University. She worked as a writer/editor for several years before deciding to teach kindergarten in Thailand.