As we approach the 20th anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil, we are reminded of the string of tragedies that occurred that day. Four hijacked planes. Two imploding skyscrapers. The home of the most powerful army on earth went up in flames.
Nearly 3,000 people died that day in plane crashes, collapsing buildings and desperate leaps from burning buildings. Still, such disasters tend to leave only a few people standing out as unlikely survivors.
Like American Airlines, United Airlines also had a computer-based assignment request system. Schedules were typically set a month beforehand, so in August flight attendant Elise O’Kane logged in to register for her usual trip from Boston to Los Angeles. Unfortunately (at the time, anyway), she mistakenly inverted two code numbers and ended up with an unintended schedule.
No biggie, though. In the ensuing weeks, O’Kane was able to trade flights with other flight attendants for all her typical assignments except for one: Flight 175 on September 11.
So on September 10, O’Kane logged in and requested that flight. But as luck would have it the system froze. By the time it finally processed her request, it was one minute past the airline’s deadline for such changes. Her request for Flight 175 was denied. She’d have to settle for Denver rather than LA.
The next morning, O’Kane’s Denver-bound plane left Boston’s Logan Airport between American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, and United’s Flight 175, which struck the South Tower. O’Kane promptly switched jobs, eventually becoming a nurse.