Mary Welsh and Cheryl Scheck

Cheryl Scheck (CS): I was actually in reservations at the time.  I worked in the admin building.  Some of my colleagues were across the street, and we had gone over for a meeting.  And as soon as we got there and got settled someone came into the office and said, "Oh my gosh, a plane hit the World Trade Center."  And we all sat there kind of stunned in front of the TV.   You weren't sure initially if it was an aircraft accident or what it was, and then it became clear very quickly that there was something else really bad going on.  Then you lived in kind of some fear of what's next, and you weren't sure what else was going to unfold and the uncertainty of that.  And living in something that surreal, no one really knew what to do, or what to say, or how to react.  But there were some key things that you had to take care of, and you had to think ahead and come up with an immediate plan.  Being on the reservation side when things really start hitting, you've got work to do.  And it was quickly, how do you recover, and connected with all the different parts of the operation, as we start bringing planes in to different cities, and taking care of customers, and being sure our folks in the field had the right level of support and the right information, and then watching on TV to see what was actually happening and unfolding in the world and trying to absorb all of that.   It was a horrible day, and those who were able to left the offices early.  There were a few of us that were leaving at the end of the day.  There were probably five cars in the parking lot.  We're each walking to our car and I have a flat tire.  And you can't find anybody in the city who's going to help you change it at that point based on the events of that day.

Mary Welsh (MW): What did you do?

CS:  A colleague of mine, God bless, changed the tire.  It was a horribly hot day.  We all went back home.   And that evening I just remember calls from different colleagues and family--"Is everybody okay?  Anything you need?"--and just being grateful for being alive, and also thinking through kind of what's next.   And that kind of set the stage for, you know, how the company and the industry changed, and the world changed, you know, in those days that came after that.

MW:  I hadn't thought about the reservations impact, because every flight came down, and every flight had to go back up.

CS:  Correct.

MW: That massive effort that your team had to do.

CS: It was an amazing effort.   And it wasn't just the reservations team; you know, it was so many other people across, you know, airports and the operation, ensuring that people were taken care of the best way you can, and communicated with, and giving them what they need while they're away from their home, and then trying to get home.  So if you have an airplane that's grounded, what are you going to do with those people?  You know, do you put them up in hotels?  Or you can't, and you make them comfortable in airports.  And some people, they didn't fly home; they rented cars and drove to wherever they needed to go.    But all of those efforts and just trying to get people back to where they needed to be, and ensuring people were accounted for was amazing.  And those are the things that make you glad that the company that we work for can react to those types of things and handle those types of situations in a caring, compassionate, and first-class way.