Heidi Snow, the founder of AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services (ACCESS), says she feels your pain.
Snow, who spoke at a May 11 Northern California Business Aviation Association safety seminar, lost her finance Michel Breistroff in the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800.
The 747 broke apart over New York’s Long Island Sound about 12 minutes into a flight from John F. Kennedy Airport to Paris. The NTSB blamed the crash on fuel tank combustion although the safety board noted “the source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty.” There were no survivors among the 230 people aboard the red-and-white jumbo jet.
She said families of commercial, military, and general aviation air crash victims experience shock, disbelief, anger, grief, and a host of other emotions. “I’ve been through them myself,” she told a crowd of about 60 professional aviators. “I remember when I was at the crash site and everything just built up inside,” she confided. After the initial pain of being alone subsided, Snow realized there weren’t many support mechanisms in place for relatives of pilots, passengers, and survivors following a fatal air crash. She created ACCESS to help comfort others wrestling with a variety of feelings and to provide them with hope for the future.
Snow’s organization assisted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States after jetliners were used as weapons. “Many of the September 11 victims’ families echoed absolute disbelief and needed a sense of closure,” she said.
The nonprofit also coordinates with first responders, assists with full-scale air disaster emergency response drills, and has trained NTSB and American Red Cross personnel during counseling workshops and other emotional support mechanisms.
“Our role is to take away the grief,” she said. “Time heals.”