As a young man walking the streets of lower Manhattan I would look skyward and be comforted by the presence of the two large towers. As a pilot the World Trade Center symbolized the end of my day as I navigated towards New York City.
Little did I know on that clear September morning the tall beacons that directed me in the air would be destroyed by terrorists. I turned on my television to see the Twin Towers fall and my heart sank. I sat helplessly watching the tragic events unfold but I knew as a Nation we are strong and would persevere. Reflecting on the tragic events I asked myself “what can I do?”.
How can one pilot make a difference? I decided to volunteer and help the pilots and their families affected by the attacks. I remembered that our union had an army of volunteer pilots who helped with various issues including training, maintaining professional standards, and helping families cope with the many issues at home.
For the past ten years I have volunteered with many organizations. One position closest to my heart is serving as chairman of the committee representing our furloughed pilots. Thousands of pilots nationwide where furloughed as a direct result of the attacks. Some are still on furlough ten years later.
At times it can be difficult especially when hearing the devastation in the voices of those who lost their jobs. My most challenging moment was during a call from a spouse of one of our furloughed pilots. She related to me how her husband had not been able to get a job and that her child needed food. The young mother stated “today was the lowest point in my life because of my experience at the Public Welfare Office.” The case worker laughed when this young mother said her husband was an airline pilot. She ran out of the office never to return.
Fighting back tears she said people do not understand the low wages starting airline pilots make. I told her resources were available through the Airline Pilots Association and that I along with the rest of the union will stand strong to assist her. Through our union’s assistance program and the donations of others she was able to feed her family and in addition we where able to secure insurance through the selfless donations of our pilots.
It has been ten years since the attacks on our country and we are still feeling the effects in the aviation industry. Through random acts of kindness and the many pilot volunteers we remain strong.
Volunteerism is one of the threads that weaves into the fabric of our country making us a stronger nation. I encourage you to get involved in one of the many organizations that assist pilots who have lost their jobs. Additionally, there are many organizations that use our pilot skills to help others. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and pride one feels when giving back to society in a selfless act of volunteerism.
For some volunteering may mean folding letters or making phone calls. For others it might mean donating their spare time or money in helping others. All forms and levels of volunteerism are very important to the strengthening of our nation, our aviation community, and of our pilot group because together we are strong.
Your Pilot Volunteer,
Captain Carl Valeri
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