Flight 93 stewardess Sandy Bradshaw, Greensboro NC mother of 2 9/11 victim, Memories of Sandy Bradshaw live in abundance
From the Greensboro News Record September 11, 2011.
“Jeri Rowe: Memories of Sandy Bradshaw live in abundance”
“Turn the corner too quick, and you’ll miss the flight handbook behind the glass.
It’s 2,000 pages or so of print and diagrams, with only small notations of dates and two initials, written in cursive, near the front. The last notation: 9-01-01 . The two initials: SB.
But stop. See the cover, stained brown and wrinkled. Then read. It’ll sink in. This is — was — Sandy’s handbook. She carried it on her last flight, United Flight 93 , the plane that’s become one of America’s symbols of sacrifice.
We all know the story. Four terrorists hijacked the plane exactly 10 years ago today and turned it into a flying bomb bound for the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
They didn’t make it. The passengers and the crew fought back. That includes Sandy.
The Boeing 757 plowed into a field beside a grove of hemlocks, nearly two miles north of the tiny town of Shanksville, population 219 . The plane’s impact caused a crater 40 feet deep.
Only a few things survived. And some of those things belonged to Sandra Bradshaw, flight attendant, married mother of two.
Her Greensboro Public Library card.
Her family photos.
Her discount cards from Harris Teeter, Toys & Co. and The Fresh Market.
And her flight handbook.
It’s on permanent display at the Greensboro Historical Museum, in one of its newest exhibits, The Service and Sacrifice Gallery. In the gallery, beside a big photo of Sandy, smiling in a cockpit, are words written by museum archivist Stephen Catlett.
He calls the handbook “one of the museum’s most prized possessions,’’ and “one of the most emotionally charged and poignant artifacts I have ever handled.’’
During his 34 years of library and museum work in Philadelphia and Greensboro, Catlett has handled everything from the letters of American patriot Benjamin Franklin to the original manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson himself.
Yet, the handbook carried by Sandy — the chicken farmer’s daughter, the scrappy basketball player from Grays Chapel School, the 1981 grad of Eastern Randolph High — equals them in historical importance.
It’s a gift from Sandy’s husband, Phil. It came to the museum packed in three plastic bags. It wreaked of jet fuel. Catlett and his volunteers fumigated 21 pages at a time every day. It took months.
Today Sandy’s handbook carries the tell-tale sign of what happened.
It’s the brown stain, the stain of jet fuel. See it, and all you do is stare.
“It’s the closest someone can get to the real event,’’ Catlett says. “Listen to the stories, and they’re powerful, incredibly emotional. But a real artifact, even for a moment, it gives you that emotional connection to an event that no third-person account — no matter how well written — can do.
“This is a great treasure of American history. A sad treasure.’’
Sandy’s family doesn’t go see the flight handbook very often. For them, it’s too painful.
They remember Sandy in their own way — with pictures, memory boxes, special flags, roses and a garden, full of small concrete bunnies, at her old school.”
“Pat Waugh will always see the garden. She’s Sandy’s mom. In December, she lost John Waugh, her husband of 50 years . So, when she goes to the garden, she often goes alone.
It’s just a few miles south of her house. When she went one time, a big yellow butterfly flew around her four times, landed on the flowers and stayed. Waugh nearly lost it.
On Sandy’s headstone at Greensboro’s Forest Lawn Cemetery is a smooth rock painted with turquoise butterflies. The butterflies were painted by Sandy’s oldest child, Alex . She’s now 12.
On Friday, Waugh traveled to Shanksville along with 10 family members — that includes her granddaughter, Christi Ulander and Peele, one of her five children.
They expected to see big-time politicians during the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial. And a marble wall, with 40 panels.
Each panel will bear the name of a crew member or passenger who died in that field at 10:03 a.m. 10 years ago today.
And like the garden at Grays Chapel, like Sandy’s flight handbook in Greensboro, the marble wall will be poignant, too.
It shows Flight 93’s direction of travel in its final seconds, and a walkway rims the spot where the plane hit and disintegrated.
Pat needs to go. Since 9/11, she travels several times a year to Shanksville. She knows why.
“She came to me in a dream once,’’ says Waugh, now 68 . “She was standing with all these animals — you know she loved animals — and I ran over and hugged her. Just hugged her hard because I knew she came to say good-bye.”