AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services

AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services

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AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services

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1996 was shaping up to be an amazing year for Heidi Snow! The Honors graduate of the University of Wisconsin had recently begun a promising career as a trading assistant on Wall Street. She was living the dream in the always dynamic City That Never Sleeps. And she was in love.

Michel Breistroff also had much to be cheerful about during the summer of 1996. A recent graduate of Harvard University and the brightest star on France’s national hockey team, professional squads in Europe were vying for his services. For him, the future could not have been more promising either. He, too, was in love. With Heidi. And they planned to marry.

Two young lovers engaged to be married living in one of the most vibrant cities on earth? How could life get any better?

That summer, Michel needed to return to France to begin training for a hockey tournament and prepare for his professional hockey career. So on July 17, he bid his fiancee adieu and boarded a plane for Paris. Heidi was unable to accompany him on this trip but planned to join him in Europe the following week where the two of them would continue to lay the foundation for their future together.

But a cruel fate designed an alternate route for this beautiful, happy couple just coming into the prime of their lives. Shortly after take-off, TWA Flight 800 exploded over Long Island Sound killing all 230 people on board. Michel was gone.

As one would expect, feelings of denial, disbelief and overwhelming grief overcame Heidi when she learned of the explosion. Nothing prepares a person for the sudden and violent loss of a loved one. In an instant, Heidi’s world changed forever and her future dreams, once so full of joy, shockingly and permanently became her worst nightmare from which she doubted she would ever awake.

Along with so many others who lost someone dear that fateful day, Heidi could not fill the emptiness she felt in her soul. The crisis intervention she received immediately following the disaster was very helpful but a void was left when they moved on to the next catastrophe. There had to be more. There had to be something that could help her cope.

Unable to find resources to help heal her suffering heart and confront her sorrow in a fashion that she needed, Heidi reached deep within her grief to create an organization dedicated to helping others similarly affected. Thus, out of her own personal loss was born AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services, a grief-mentoring nonprofit organization that reaches out to help anyone who has been impacted by an air disaster. (Click HERE to watch a video of Heidi’s story)

With a supportive Advisory Board which included Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki and Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, ACCESS began connecting people who needed help with those who truly understood their special need. From that simple idea has grown an amazing support organization that continues to expand its reach. ACCESSwas there for the friends and families of 9/11 victims. And they reach out to survivors every time an aviation disaster occurs. Their only mission is to help facilitate the grieving process.

When I first met Heidi, I was immediately drawn to her foundation because of the natural intersection of her life’s work and mine. Whereas ACCESS focuses on helping people overcome the emotional effects of air disasters, I knew that structured settlements had helped many of these same people overcome the daunting challenges that confronted them when they needed to make important financial decisions at a crucial juncture in their lives.

I thought about Robin, a young widow with three children whose husband, Scott, was killed in a small plane crash in Alaska in the early 90’s. Despite the fact that Robin and I met under such unhappy circumstances, I am extremely proud to have played a role in helping her put her financial life together following her tragic loss.

I was touched when I received a letter from Robin not long after we concluded her structured settlement. She thanked me for helping her honor Scott’s memory, for helping her to take care of his children and for “being sensitive to (her) broken heart.” If only an organization likeACCESS has existed at the time because I know it would have eased Robin’s suffering.

I thought about a guy who went to my high school whose life was also cut short when he was killed in a small private plane crash leaving behind a widow and three small children. Though he graduated nine years before me, like everyone else in town I was proud of our alumnus’ accomplishments on the baseball diamond and deeply saddened by his untimely death as was the entire New York Yankees organization when their captain, Thurman Munson, died. I wish there had been an ACCESS for the Munson family in 1979.

If you know anyone who is suffering from the aftermath of losing someone they cared about as the result of a commercial, private or military air disaster, please let them know they do not need to suffer alone. Have them contact ACCESS. They will listen. They will understand. And they will care.

I’m proud to call Heidi Snow a friend of mine and proud to be a continuing sponsor of her work through ACCESS. To learn more about Heidi’s touching story or to find out how you or your company can support her cause, contact accesshelp.org.

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