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.
This year I was selected to be part of the Jobs for English Majors Career Panel at Roosevelt University to speak about my career path post-graduation. I remember attending this panel when finishing up my Honors thesis in 2015 and how helpful it was for me at the time, so I’m very proud and happy I was able to return a few years later & be that resource for others. I spoke about working in the Writing Center and as Managing Editor of the RU Torch while attending Roosevelt, as well as my positions post-grad, including teaching English as a foreign language abroad in Thailand & my current position of Copy Editor on the Email Creative Team at Epsilon.