Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Angels we have heard on high

A little over 6 years ago, I interviewed a woman for one of two jobs that were available in my department. The positions were in member services, and she was a flight attendant who volunteered as a docent at a local art museum. I figured anyone who worked regularly with a couple of hundred people crammed into a tight space was worth interviewing. Plus, as a docent she must have an interest in the arts. Ultimately, I didn't hire her. There were two other candidates who were better fits, and they accepted the jobs. But, I was struck by two things. First, she had the most incredible voice. It was almost angelic, kind of high in pitch and very whispery. Second, I could tell she wanted out of her current situation. I didn't inquire why... it was none of my business... but I could imagine that the glamour and excitement of a job in travel would wear thin pretty quickly.

Five weeks later was 9/11, when life changed considerably. Mike and I were lucky. Although he used to work at the Pentagon, he had relocated to the next building over six months earlier. Still, his new building was right in the plane's flight path, and a 30 foot antenna on the roof was a casualty that morning. We both made it home safely, and did the mental tallying of friends and family and were relieved that we knew no one who worked close to the World Trade Center. Since Mike's colleagues had made the move with him, he didn't really know anyone at the Pentagon anymore.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Washington Post published a roster of the people who died at the Pentagon. I was scanning the list, just to make sure that there wasn't anyone I knew, when I came across her name. It was the flight attendant who wanted the job I had to offer. The one I didn't hire, and who went to work that morning, got on her flight, and died.

To this day, I am haunted by her voice.

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