Picture
I took this photo in May 2002 at the 9/11 site. The wall was filled with tokens of support from around the world.
We will never forget.

I grew up in Nebraska.  We were thousands of miles away from New York when it happened, but September 11th was still an attack on our country and it impacted our lives greatly.  My parents felt it was important for me to see it with my own eyes and so in May 2002 we made a somber visit to the former site of the Twin Towers.  It was a pit filled with a mess of steel that was being sorted out by construction workers.  My parents wanted me to know it was real.  It was a very real, very horrible tragedy in which the lives of so many innocent people were lost.

I tried to go back years later.  I tried and failed.  This is a short story I wrote to cope with my feelings afterwards:

The Difficulty in Being Brave by Jenn Grahams

“Be brave,” I commanded myself while riding the subway downtown.

I had whispered those encouraging words under my breath a lot since having moved to New York City four months ago.  I was the girl who needed to keep being brave.  Starting a new job had been scary enough, but when my new career as a flight attendant had also required that I move to the Big Apple, the task had been almost unthinkable.  I was the girl who had grown up in a state that had more cows than people.  For me, New York City was a faraway, mythical land; a place as foreign to me as China.  Fortunately, with the support of many family members and co-workers, I had made the move and was thriving in my new home.  Certainly there had been days of getting lost and hours spent figuring out the local transit system, but ultimately, I had grown as a person and adjusted to the strange, urban environment.  I knew I could be brave, but when facing a gravesite, I felt my bravery would truly be tested.

There were only two more metro stops to go before reaching the World Trade Center subway station and so internally I reviewed my mission.  I was finally going to visit the 9/11 Memorial.  I was finally going to pay my respects to the men and women who lost their lives on that tragic day in 2001. 

“Be brave,” I told myself again, but a mounting sense of dread loomed over me like a dark cloud.

As a flight attendant, I held a deep connection to the plane crashes that brought down the Twin Towers.  Although I was just a teenager when it happened, the significance of the horrific events that had played out on the news was not lost on me.  My father was a pilot for a commercial airliner and (Praise be to God!) he had just flown out of New York City the morning of September 11th, hours before it happened. 

As a pilot’s daughter, I had flown abundantly throughout my childhood and until 9/11, had never seen flying as unsafe.  It was a terrifying moment to suddenly think that your father’s life, just like the lives of the people on United Airlines Flight #175 and American Airlines Flight #11, could end in an instant.  Perhaps surprisingly, this revelation did not deter me from eventually seeking a job in the airline industry.  If anything, 9/11 fueled a deep desire for me to emulate the acts of bravery that abounded that day.  I was inspired by the countless number of heroes that put themselves in harm’s way to save lives including firefighters, police officers, emergency responders, courageous New York citizens on the scene, and the individuals on United Airlines Flight #93 that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. 

My musings on these tremendous acts of heroism faltered, however, as the subway train pulled to a jerky stop.  I exited the car and shuffled up a stairwell with a swarm of bustling people.  When the crowd dispersed, I was left alone at the intersection of Barkley and Church Street standing in the shadow of the recently completed One World Trade Center building.  I craned my neck back and caught my breath as I gazed at the enormously tall fixture of glass and steel which had replaced the fallen towers. 

I knew that a few blocks away I would find the 9/11 Memorial.  I had seen pictures online of the two square-shaped reflection pools that mark the former location of the Twin Towers.  Water pours across the two empty holes which are paved in concrete brick.  There is a banister bordering the uppermost level that is lined with sleek, gray panels in which the names of the dead - their lives unjustly stolen - are inscribed.  I squeezed my eyes shut and envision myself standing there in the photograph and the moment I did, the tears came.

“I can’t.  I can’t do it.”

The thought of defeat repeated over and over in my mind.  I wanted to see the memorial.  I wanted to pay tribute to those brave and heroic people, but that important visit did not happen.  Instead, I turned and fled back into the subway to make the hour ride return to my place in Queens and to save the journey for another time. 

Although my visit to the graveside was unfulfilled, I am left with a small bit of hope that bravery is not instantaneous.  Bravery, I hope, is a mindset, a trait, a determination that we must seek to find within ourselves and once found, something we can cultivate so that it can someday be used for the good of others.
 
 
LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia Airport - My first flight attendant base!
In my head I can picture them clearly.  I see the grubby, dirt-smeared faces of poor European immigrants beaming joyfully at the Statue of Liberty in all her glory as their boat pulls into the harbors of Ellis Island, just beyond the skyline of New York City.  This was the arrival for passengers coming to the Big Apple in the early 1900s.  Today, the port of arrival for many is LaGuardia Airport, a building that is as grubby and perhaps as down-trodden as the immigrants of old.  (Click HERE to hear U.S. Vice President Biden compare LaGuardia’s sad, decaying structure to a “third world country”.)

LaGuardia Airport (LGA) was my first flight attendant base and I worked there for nearly a year.  When in uniform (and even in plain clothes), I was often approached by frazzled-looking passengers who needed help navigating their way around LaGuardia.  Here are some basic tips I learned from my days working in the Big Apple’s smallest airport.

Please note:  LaGuardia is undergoing many renovations.  Check the airport’s website HERE for the most up-to-date information.  The article below was written in April 2015.
Picture
A cockroach in the airport's basement crawling near the mice traps. Gross!

Tip 1. Know Your Terminal Before Arriving at the Airport

“What terminal is Delta?”  People driving would slow down their vehicles, roll down their windows, and shout this question at me as the traffic behind them began honking mercilessly.  My answer was always, “Delta is in terminals A, C, and D!  Good luck!”

LaGuardia's configuration sucks.  The terminals are separated and there is no easy way to connect them.  You need to know where you’re going.  Delta and American/US Airways are located in different terminals and each of those terminals has its own security.  And just to make things more confusing, the American flights in terminal B use the D gates and the United Airlines flights (also in terminal B) use the C gates.  It really makes no sense.

Basically, here is the breakdown of where your airline might be.  It’s best to use a smartphone or computer ahead of time to find out exactly.  Read Tip #2 for info on switching terminals.

Terminal A (Marine Air Terminal)
Delta Shuttle

Terminal B
American (C & D Gates)
United (C Gates)
Virgin America (C Gates)
Southwest (B Gates)
Spirit (B Gates)
Air Canada (A Gates)
Frontier (A Gates)
JetBlue (A Gates)
United (A Gates)

Terminal  C
Delta / Delta Shuttle
US Airways / American

Terminal D

Delta
WestJet

Tip 2.  Connecting to a different terminal? Get on the right bus!

LGA Bus
The inter-terminal buses pick up on the lower level at the green shelters that look like this:

There are two buses.  Both are notoriously slow during rush hour traffic.  (Not that I can blame them.)

Route A – The longer route that loops around Terminal A.  This is the only bus that goes to Terminal A.

Route B
– The shorter loop that goes to Terminals B, C, and D and the parking lots in between.

The Route A bus takes a good 10-15 minutes extra time to get out to Terminal A so be careful when getting on it.  You could waste a lot of time!  Check out the map below. 

EXAMPLES: 
Notice how the buses run in the same direction.  If you are at Terminal B and you need to get to Terminal D, it would be faster to wait for the Route B bus.  Do NOT take the Route A bus.  If, however, you are at Terminal D and headed toward Terminal B, you can take either Route A or B because you would get off Route A before it makes the long jog to Terminal A.  Confused yet?

American / US Airways Passengers!  There is/was a special bus that connected passengers between Terminals B and C.  I'm not sure if it's still running.  Check with a representative from your airline.

Tip 3. Consider walking between Terminals B and C.

Laguardia Bus route B
Is it faster to walk or wait for the bus?  I spent many days “racing” the bus to see which was faster.  It’s a tough call.  The walk can take around 15 minutes if you are leaving from the East end of Terminal B and headed toward C.  The sidewalk isn’t great and the walkway isn’t covered.

My golden rule for deciding to walk was always this:

  • I must have less than two bags with me.
  • I must be unhindered by children. (Better to walk solo!)
  • The weather must be reasonably comfortable.
  • The traffic needs to be crawling at a snail’s pace.
  • I need to be wearing decent shoes. (Sidewalk is terrible for anyone wearing heels.)

Tip 4. Keep Your Baggage Claim Ticket!

Baggage claim is located on the lower level.  Just take the escalator or elevator downstairs. (Who am I kidding?  Those are both broken so go find the stairs.)  

To find the carousel with your checked bags,
check the monitors.  Look for your inbound destination to see which carousel will have your checked bags. (If you came in from Oklahoma City, you need to look for Oklahoma City NOT New York City.  Everyone is in New York City, dummy.)

Unfortunately, LaGuardia’s baggage claim has been targeted by thieves.  Whenever bags start to go missing, the security heightens.  They have a very “sophisticated” security measure.  You must show your baggage claim receipt to an airport employee who stands near the exit and compares your receipt with the bag's tag.  The baggage claim receipt is often a white sticker with a barcode that the gate agent sticks to the back of your boarding pass.  If you don’t have your receipt....I have no clue what happens.  If you find out, write me in the comments below!

Tip 5.  Head to the city!

Cabs NYCTaxis waiting outside Terminal B.
Were you supposed to connect to Detroit? 
Forget about it!  Go visit New York instead!  It’s the busiest, most energy-filled city you’ll ever experience.  All city-bound transportation is located on the lower level. 

TAXIS

Lower level.  They are everywhere!  All the yellow cabs are metered which mean they charge the same amount of money.  That rate can change depending on how long you sit in traffic, but it should cost around $40 with tip.

BUS
The NYC Airporter is a shuttle bus that will take you to JFK Airport, Newark, or downtown Manhattan.  You can purchase tickets online or on the lower level from the NYC Airporter employees.  (Look for their branded shirts and jackets.)  Check out their website for rates.  Don’t plan on the shuttle running on time.  It was always late when I used it!

PUBLIC TRANSIT

Want to be a local?  Try New York’s MTA.  Go to the lower level and look for a kiosk machine to purchase your Metro rail card.  You need a credit or debit card to make this purchase.  No cash.  Otherwise, if you can buy a one-way fare using EXACT change on the bus.  (The driver will NOT break a bill for you.)

Check out the MTA’s website HERE for rates.

The easiest way to get to Manhattan is to take the Q70 bus to Roosevelt / Jackson Heights and then catch the Manhattan-bound E train on the blue line.  :)

More questions about New York City's LaGuardia Airport?  Write me a question in the comments below and I'll try my best to answer!

Safe travels!
~Jenn Grahams


 
 
"Must be willing to work holidays."  Every flight attendant job application will include these words in bold font.  There's no getting around it.  If you're going to be in the airline business, you're going to miss family gatherings.  It's unfortunate, but someone has to be there to help other people get to their loved ones.

Growing up, my family hardly ever celebrated holidays on their calendar date.  With dad working as an airline pilot, we learned to be flexible.  We might celebrate Christmas the weekend before or even as late as the first week of January.  We couldn't reschedule the
 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but our Thanksgiving meal featuring mom's delicious cooking and our cousin's famous mashed potatoes - that we could rearrange for a time when my father was home.  The only celebration we couldn't reschedule was the 4th of July.  (The city's fire marshal wasn't keen to let us shoot fireworks weeks well past our country's Independence Day celebration.)

Now I'm grown up and married and somehow being away on the holidays is much, much harder than I expected.  The holidays don't stop or rearrange themselves when I'm gone.  There is enormous guilt in knowing that your loved one will be home alone going to Easter church services or that your spouse is unwrapping gifts Christmas Eve with his family while you're stuck doing a Miami turn.  Working on the holidays is certainly one of the LEAST glamorous parts of being a flight attendant.

Below is a photo journal of the working holidays I've taken since beginning my career as a flight attendant almost a year and a half ago.

I hope you all had a blessed Easter this past Sunday!  
Jesus Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

~ Jenn Grahams

Easter 2015
I got stuck with in Washington D.C. with an afternoon Chicago turn assignment.  In the morning, I went to a church service before heading out.  I found these beautiful cherry blossoms on my way to the church! 
Jenn Grahams
Easter 2015. Cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.
Jesus Cross
Easter 2015
Christmas 2014
I was assigned a two day trip with a San Diego layover.  My co-worker and I decorated the beverage cart with Christmas lights.  :)  Unfortunately, I can't post any pictures of myself in uniform, but here are a few snapshots from that trip.
Flight Attendant Insert
The galley flight attendant who used the aircraft prior to me was nice enough to leave a fully stocked insert. :)
Chicken Florentine
My sister-in-law left me a delicious post-Christmas dinner in the fridge! She even had it gift wrapped for me!
Thanksgiving 2014
I had a pretty amazing three day trip with a LONG layovers in Miami, Florida and Vancouver, Canada!  Since Canada's Thanksgiving is celebrated on a different date than in the United States, all businesses were open!  My co-worker and I splurged for a delicious steak dinner on the water at the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill.
Jenn Grahams
Thanksgiving 2014 in Vancouver!
Easter 2014
This was a very depressing day for me.  I was stuck in New York City at my crashpad sitting "on reserve" which basically meant the only reason I couldn't go home was because I was the "back up" flight attendant on call.  I wasn't even assigned a trip.  My flatmate tried to cheer me up by buying me some chocolates.  :)
Chocolates
Easter 2014 at my crashpad in New York City
Christmas 2013
I was on reserve in New York City, but I had company!  My dad snagged a NYC layover and my mother and sister flew in standby so we were able to spend the day together!  We attended an amazing Christmas Day church service at the Korean Church of Queens.  Even though the songs were sung in Korean, we could recognize the tunes of the classics such as "O' Come All Ye Faithful" and "Joy to the World".  Also, the pastor included a translation of his sermon on PowerPoint slides.  In was actually a really amazing experience!  That night we visited the Christmas market in Bryant Park!
Korean Church of Queens
Christmas 2013 - Korean Church of Queens in NYC
Christmas in New York
Christmas 2013 - Empire State Building in New York City
 
 
On a cold day in February, I journeyed to New York City to visit one of my favorite neighborhoods in Queens known as Jackson Heights.  While based in New York, I routinely traveled through Jackson Heights.  The Roosevelt Avenue / Jackson Heights subway station served as my access point to trains bound for Manhattan. 
In some ways, Jackson Heights is just like any other neighborhood in Queens.  You’ll find food trucks, hole-in-the-wall shops, flocks of dirty pigeons, and of course, mountains of trash and recycling on pick-up days.
There’s an exciting energy about this little neighborhood that I find fascinating and distinct from other places in the city.  Walking down the main street, your senses are awakened by the smell of spices, the sounds of rumbling trains overhead, and the feel of the underground subway vibrating beneath your feet.

Also striking is the diversity.  Shop owners in this area are mainly immigrants from Mexico, South and Latin America, and Asia.  Walking down a side street can make you feel as if you’ve just stepped into another part of the world.

76th Street and Broadway

I began my visit at 76th Street and Broadway.  Immediately upon wandering down the street, I began seeing signs written in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Fruit Market NYC
A sign for apples written in four different languages!
Sabay Thai NYC
I stopped for a delicious lunch at Sabay Thai!
Chinese Church Jackson Heights NYC
New York Seventh Day Adventist Chinese Church
Jackson Heights Queens
A friendly shop owner who let me take his picture!

72nd Street and Broadway

After finishing my delicious lunch, I wandered to 72nd Street where I found many local women in full-length dresses and headscarves and men wearing beards and turbans.  Shops in this area cater to Muslims seeking Halal food and drink.
Dera Restaurant Queens New York
This restaurant is famous for its Indian and Pakistani food. I want to stop by the next time I'm in New York!
Halal Meat Store
There are several competing Halal Meat stores around this block.
Asia Tribune
The Asia Tribune - a newspaper in Arabic for sale inside several shops.
Ainul Haramain
A travel agency advertising for Muslim pilgrimages.

76th - 80th Street and Roosevelt

Next I headed north to a cross-street known as Roosevelt.  Here you’ll find shops predominantly run by immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Colombia.  Block after block you’ll find shops labeled purely in Spanish, advertising help with immigration papers and passport photos.
Visit New York Queens
Mmm....tacos!
Picture
A vendor unloading a TON of Mexican beer!
Picture
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the "immigration offices" along this street specialize in fake IDs.
Piñatas for sale New York
Piñatas for sale!
It’s amazing really to see so many cultures blended into one neighborhood.  Jackson Heights isn’t a beautiful neighborhood.  In fact, it’s a bit grimy.  If you walk down the streets at night, you’ll get solicited to visit the upstairs “massage” parlors or encouraged by promoters with flyers to enter the strip clubs.   Despite all this, I still love visiting Jackson Heights, Queens and I know you’ll love it too!  If you’re planning a trip to New York City any time soon, be sure to stop by this diverse and unique neighborhood!

-Jenn Grahams


 

    Jenn Grahams

    is a flight attendant and an aspiring writer.  She lives in the Midwest with her husband, many pet fish, and two chinchillas named Kuzco and Pancho.

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