Andrea Ratfield (AR):
"My very first job at Delta Air Lines was as a flight attendant, and I adored it. I loved it so much that I applied for an onboard leader position, which was the lead flight attendant, and I got it. This was prior to 9/11. If you were the onboard leader, and there was an additional flight attendant on board, you were allowed to sit up front for takeoff and landings. And I was up there every opportunity I had. And I was just amazed. I would talk to the pilots, and I learned about what it meant to be a pilot, how do you become a pilot, just learning everything I could. I wasn't sure I was going to do it -- it was very expensive, I had student loans -- and then we had a trip to Lyon, France. And it's rare that the entire crew will go out. But on this particular layover it was all three pilots and all the flight attendants.
And we all went out and just had a blast. And then we went out for dinner, and the captain sat at the head of the table. And at the end of it when it was time to go, he paid for everything. And I remember looking at him -- he was just proud and joyful in that moment -- and I thought to myself, I said, "I'm going to do that one day." I said, "I am going to become a pilot, and I am going to be a Delta Air Lines captain, and I'm going to take all my crews out to dinner, and I want to give and pay it forward."
"I want to be that person.”
"I want to be that person."
"So I told the gentleman the next day I was going to be a Delta captain one day. And he hopped me in the engine, and he took a picture of me, and he said, "I want you to always remember your dream, and always pay it forward." I said, "OK." So I started saving up to start my private pilot's license. And I decided that it was going to be a birthday present to myself. And my birthday is Sept. 10, and my very first flight lesson for my 24th birthday was supposed to be Sept. 11, 2001. And that didnot happen. Delta Air Lines had (offered leaves) because of the situation, and I took a year leave from Delta, I quickly did my private's license and my commercial, and I just kept going. I didn’t even look back.
"To see a young girl come up to you and just look at you with these eyes of wonder and amazement and say, "Are you a pilot?" and you say, "Yes," they're, like, "Wow. I want to do that, too."