I remember the day my father died as if it were yesterday. I was 14. My father had wanted our family to join him on a business trip in our new plane, but my mother didn’t want my brother and me to miss school. Then at the last minute she changed her mind. We arrived just as the plane was taking off. I stood by the runway waving goodbye. That was the last time I would ever see my dad. His plane crashed somewhere in Malibu Canyon, CA on the way back.
For the longest time I held onto the belief that somehow he was still out there and that he was okay. Although it’s been many years, my father’s death still has a profound effect on my life. His words of constant encouragement ring in my ears to this very day. They are my inspiration to rise above the roadblocks of life; to succeed as a worker and a friend, and to be the best I can be.
On July 17, 1996, while I was reporting on the TWA Flight 800 disaster as host of GoodMorning America, I was called into the control room. They had someone on the phone frantically trying to see if his twin brother Jed was in the crash. Jed was scheduled to be on the later flight to Paris. The producers of the show contacted TWA and confirmed our worst fear: that Jed, my childhood best friend and first boyfriend, was on that plane.
Never before in my twenty years on Good Morning America had I gone on the air unable to speak, but that morning my co-host, Charlie Gibson, explained to the viewers that I needed a few moments to regain my composure.
A year before my fathers crash, two of his colleagues, who were private plane pilots, had crashed and died. It was my father who went to their homes to tell their wives. In the days following my dad’s crash, those two women practically lived at our house, helping us through the first few days.And that is the real magic of ACCESS, a program where role models who have experienced the same type of loss can uniquely help others navigate their painful journey.
When you meet Heidi you cannot help but be struck by a sense that she is carrying on in the face of a tragic event. I was impressed by how she was able to find new strengths after losing her fiancé on Flight 800 and turn her sorrow into a source of joy.
A terrible tragic moment, through difficult at the time, can become a source of strength and courage. Like Heidi, I have allowed myself to be inspired by the lives of those I lost.
Some of us have the opportunity to finish our work here, and tragically some of us are taken way too soon.
To my dad: I remember every word you
ever said, Dad. To my dear friend Jed: Your
devotion and support gave me the courage
to pursue my dream in New York. Without
you both, I would not be who I am today.