Stories of 9/11’s Aviation Heroes Inspire “Resiliency” Essay Competition for Today’s Aviation Workers Facing Covid 19 Challenges

Next fall it will be twenty years since they came into work at their airports expecting a normal day and found themselves in the middle of a national attack, one in which their industry was used at the means. 

It was their response, the extraordinary way ordinary aviation workers – both airport and airline employees – rose up to the challenges that day and to the loss and pain of the aftermath of 9/11 that made them heroes.

A book that tells the stories of those aviation workers, “Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying,” will serve as a platform for a “resiliency” essay competition to give today’s aviation workers – as well as students studying aviation – a chance to tell how they can apply the lessons of courage from 9/11’s aviation heroes to meet Covid 19’s challenges and help get America flying again.

Reclaiming the Sky stories include profiles of Sue Baer and her Port Authority team at Newark International airport where United Flight 93 departed as they worked to protect 50,000 travelers that day; a profile of a mother, an employee at Boston’s Logan airport, who put her daughter on United Flight 175 yet returned to the airport that evening to comfort other mothers who lost children and stories of the American Airlines flight attendants, colleagues of the crew on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, who created charity projects to honor their friends.

“The Covid 19 crisis has had a crushing impact on the aviation industry and on workers,” said Tom Murphy, author of Reclaiming the Sky. “The essay contest will give this generation of airport and airline employees and students a chance to learn from the courage of the 9/11 generation and apply those lessons to help them rise up to meet today’s virus challenges and get our aviation industry moving forward again.”

The essay competition will start January 1, 2021 and run through the summer of 2021 before culminating with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in September, 2021. The project will be conducted by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University which Murphy founded, and which offers the Edge4Vets program that teaches veterans how to tap their resiliency strengths to get jobs and make successful transitions to civilian life.

Veterans from the Edge4Vets program will help administer the essay competition. Sponsors are being enlisted to provide support, while a website,, is being updated to provide details on the competition and accept entries.

Entries will be accepted until July 31, 2021 and winners will be determined, then recognized in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in September, 2021.

There will be three categories of essay winners, including divisions for Airport Workers, Airline Employees (Inflight staff,) and Aviation Students. A fourth category is being considered for younger students in elementary, junior high and high school by working with school groups.

Aviation workers profiled in the book are being invited to participate as judges.

An advisory panel of aviation leaders is being recruited to provide guidance for the competition and the awards event at the end. Aviation groups are being enlisted for endorsements. Already Airport Council International – North America’s HR Committee and the Northeast Chapter of AAAE have expressed interest to support awareness creation. Also the program will work with University Aviation Association and its 128 member schools that offer aviation programs to reach out to their students.

The question asked of participants will be this: Tell how you can apply lessons from acts of courage and resiliency shown by aviation employees profiled in “Reclaiming the Sky” to help you overcome Covid 19 challenges and help get aviation moving forward. For those who are aviation students, tell how the heroes’ lessons can help you overcome Covid 19 challenges to become an aviation leader when you enter the industry.

A book fund is being created through sponsor recruitment to make a certain number of books available free to airport and airline workers and students who wish to participate. The more funds raised, the more books will be dispensed. All profits from the sale of the book on Amazon go to support aviation charities.

Full details on the program will be announced at the formal launch of the project in January, 2021. For more information and to become a sponsor for the book fund and support the program administration, contact Tom Murphy at


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