Heidi’s Story

Heidi Snow’s world was forever changed on July 17, 1996 when her fiancé Michel Breistroff died aboard TWA Flight 800. This single event drastically shifted the course of her life. Her grief following the loss was overwhelming. She found that most people expected her to move on and leave the tragedy behind after the funeral. Heidi discovered, however, as many do following a sudden loss, that she did not need to move away from the grief, but through it. She realized that what was missing was a long-term, non-political, non-denominational, peer grief support network for those touched by air disasters. She wanted everyone to have the opportunity to find support, and more importantly, hope for the future. So shortly after Michel’s death, in the fall of 1996, Heidi founded the non-profit organization AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services (ACCESS)

Heidi formed a board of directors and an advisory board that included New York’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki, as well as Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, the author of the best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Many others, including Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, later joined the advisory board. Heidi has raised the necessary resources through grants, capital campaigns, and large-scale fundraising events to enable ACCESS to grow. Contributions have come from hundreds of companies and foundations including The Morgan Stanley Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, JetBlue Airways, the United Way and hundreds of other major corporations and individuals nationwide.

Heidi has been featured in major news publications and appeared on major television networks including: The New York Times, People Magazine, Life Magazine, Larry King Live, The Ananda Lewis Show, National Geographic Channel, A&E, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox. Heidi was the New Yorker of the Week on the NY1 News channel in New York City.

Since its founding in 1996, ACCESS has grown exponentially. The organization has a 24-hour hotline, a Volunteer Grief Mentor Training Program and 250 trained Volunteer Grief Mentors. Airlines from New York City to Qatar and New Zealand utilize its counseling services. Heidi presents Crisis Communications Sensitivity Training Workshops to companies and airlines who work with those affected by air disasters to ensure that employees will be appropriately understanding and responsive to the bereaved. The workshops teach sensitivity and crisis communication skills necessary to address the labile emotional environment following a tragic event.

Heidi has trained care teams and air disaster responders at JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, SkyWest, Heritage Flight Charter Airline Company, Travelers Aviation, New York City Medical Examiners Office, San Francisco International Airport Emergency Operations Team, The National Transportation & Safety Board (NTSB) and the American Red Cross.

Heidi has consulted and provided evaluation services during full-scale air disaster emergency response exercises which include an air disaster water landing drill at San Francisco International Airport and JetBlue Airways emergency air disaster response drill at John F. Kennedy Airport.

Heidi has presented to clinicians and disaster response workers at the Sixth World Congress on Stress, Trauma and Coping, sponsored by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) in New York and the NJ Self-Help Center. She has spoken about surviving trauma at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in Washington D.C.

After 9/11 Heidi designed and implemented counseling workshops for the loved ones of the victims, employees who witnessed the events of 9/11 and trained crisis responders in New York City and Boston.

She has also presented at the National Settlement Services Trade Association, the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Aviation & Law Insurance Symposium, Dombroff Gilmore & French An Airplane is Down Symposium, Aviation Insurance Association (AIA), the American Bar Association (ABA) and at The National Transportation & Safety Board (NTSB) training seminar hosted by Cathay Pacific Airways at San Francisco International Airport.

Heidi has interviewed hundreds of people affected by air disasters from around the world and produced a film called For Survivors by Survivors to assist grieving individuals and to train airlines, disaster response teams and individuals who provide care or services to those who have lost loved ones suddenly.

Heidi published the book Surviving Sudden Loss: Stories from those who have lived it, Forward written by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. This book contains 28 firsthand accounts of survival in the wake of the sudden loss of a loved one. The stories presented in this book serve as a specialized training tool for crisis response teams and individuals who interact with those who have lost loved ones suddenly.

Heidi earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was a member of the Sociological Honors Society and Alpha Kappa Delta. She studied business administration and marketing and continued her education at Harvard University, Tulane University, and Mount Holyoke College. Prior to founding ACCESS, Heidi was certified by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and worked at Putnam Investments and on Wall Street. She was a hedge fund trading assistant and the first employee at Third Point Partners, LLC.


Surviving Sudden Loss: Stories from those who have lived it

Book proceeds benefit ACCESS
Purchase Here

Families We Have Helped:

Below are some of the air disasters that we have responded to:
Private Plane - 9/26/12
Rockingham County, VA
Private Plane - 2/27/11
Abu Dhabi
Private Plane - 12/22/10
Barrington, NY
Private Plane - 7/17/10
South Portland, ME
Air India Express 812 - 5/22/10
Mangalore, India
Afriqiyah Airways 8U771- 5/12/10
Tripoli, Libya
Ethiopian Airlines 409 - 1/25/10
Off of Na'ameh, Lebanon
Air France Flight 447 - 6/1/09
Atlantic Ocean
Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 - 2/25/09
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Continental Flight 3407 - 2/12/09
Clarence Center, NY
US Airways Flight 1549 - 1/15/09
Hudson River, NY
Aeroflot Flight 821 - 9/14/08
Perm, Russia
Spanair JK 5022 - 8/20/08
Madrid, Spain
TAM Airways JJ 3054 - 7/17/07
São Paulo, Brazil
Comair Flight 5191 - 8/27/06
Lexington, KY
Airbus A320-211 - 5/3/06
Off Sochi, Russia
Bellview Airlines - 10/23/05
West Caribbean Airways 708 - 8/16/05
Machiques, Venezuela
Air France Flight 358 - 8/2/05
Ontario, Canada
Kam Air Flight 904 - 2/3/05
Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan
Corporate Airlines 5966 - 10/19/04
Pettis Township, MO
Kish Airlines Flight 1770 - 2/10/04
United Arab Emirates
Georgian Express Flight 126 - 1/17/04
Ontario, Canada
Flash Airlines 604 - 1/3/04

Red Sea

Turkish Airlines 634 - 1/8/03

Diyarbakır Airport, Turkey

US Airways Express/Air Midwest Flight 5481 - 1/8/03

Charlotte, NC

American Flight 587 - 11/12/01

Queens, NY

The events of September 11, 2001

Private Plane - 12/3/00
Milltown, WI
Singapore Airlines 006 - 10/31/00

Chiang Kai-shek Internat'l Airport

Gulf Air Bus A320 - 8/23/00

Persian Gulf, Bahrain

Air France Concorde 4590 - 7/25/00

Gonesse, France

Alaska Airlines 261 - 1/31/00

Pacific Ocean

Egypt Air 990 - 10/31/99

Atlantic Ocean

American Airlines 1420 - 6/1/99

Little Rock, AR

Swissair 111 - 9/2/98

Atlantic Ocean

Private Plane - 8/4/98
Phillips, WI
TWA 800 - 7/17/96

US Air 427 9/8/94

Allegheny County, PA

Long Island, NY

Pan Am 103 - 12/21/88

Lockerbie, Scotland

TWA/United Airlines - Mid-Air Collision- 12/16/1960
Brooklyn & Staten Island, NY
and hundreds of other private, commercial and military air disasters

See Full List