The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

CNHI Special Projects

September 6, 2011

Computer glitch kept flight attendant off 9/11 plane

Stewardess: 'God has plans for me'

SALEM, N.H. — A computer glitch saved Cheryl Currao's life and also changed it forever.

Currao, of Salem, N.H., was an American Airlines flight attendant in 2001. In the days leading up to 9/11, she was desperately trying to swap assignments so she could be on American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles that morning. She wanted to get her work out of the way and return to Boston in time to be with her mother, who was scheduled to undergo cancer surgery later in the week.

“The purser’s position — the lead flight attendant — was open on the computer when I checked," she recalls. "But I got an ‘error message,’ which was highly unusual. The computer wouldn’t let me put the trade through.”

Had Currao gotten on the flight to LA when it left Logan Airport the morning of Sept. 11, she never would have seen her mother again, or marry the man she loved, or have children, or live in a nice home out in the country, or have all the good things in life she has enjoyed for 10 years.

She would have been one of the nine flight attendants who perished with 81 passengers and two pilots when the five al-Qaida terrorists commandeered Flight 11 and flew it into the World Trade Center's north tower at 8:46 a.m.

“9/11 made me realize God has plans for me,” said Currao, now 41.

After 9/11, Currao took a break from flying to deal with the emotional pain and grief she felt after her brush with one of America’s greatest tragedies. She also formed a small, informal support group of a half-dozen other American Airlines flight attendants to cope with the new fear and anguish of flying. They dubbed it “The Fly Gals” club.

“I knew all the flight attendants and pilots on that flight,” said Currao, recalling conversation she had with two of her doomed colleagues — Barbara Arestegui and Sara Low – on Sept. 10 when they flew into Boston from San Francisco with her.

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