1970S, Drama, Family, Inner Strength, New York City, Prayer, September 11, Single mothers, Uncategorized, World Trade Center


© PJ Hayward, New York 2008
First Published 2008 by Hold On Publications
Revised © PJ Hayward New York 2013

While I was working at the job I just told you about, an incident occurred which was one of several life-changing experiences the universe has seen fit to bless me with.

I will explain.

In May of 1979 my company held a series of seminars in Chicago for some of the managers and clerical staff and I was invited to go.  I was thrilled because I had been striving to live a straight and narrow life and trying hard to leave my street ways far behind me.

Being invited to this seminar gave me a sense of value and worth – that my bosses felt confident enough in my abilities to actually spend money on me with the goal of helping to improve and expand my skills.

In Chicago, the seminars themselves were really BORING.  But as I mentioned, I felt blessed to have been chosen to go so I tried to participate and value the experience.

I had never been to Chicago before so during free time I joined all my new pals and went sight-seeing and had a lot of fun.  I experienced UNO’s Pizza for the first time, walked around the Loop and went clubbing and dancing at night and had a ball.

Friday came and it was time to go.  Several other L.A. people and myself were scheduled to return home together on a flight that afternoon around 3-ish. Everybody chattered happily about returning to loved ones and weekend plans. Then we all packed up and prepared to leave.

It occurred to me that since I was 2/3 of the way to New York, maybe I could make a side trip and see my family.  I had 2 much younger sisters in New York and hadn’t seen them in a very long time.

I called my father to ask if I could stop through and he said a visit would be fine.  My babysitter back home said it would be fine keeping my son over the weekend because she was having other kids there also. I would return to L.A. that Sunday evening.  So I changed my return to a flight that routed me home via New York City.

Since I now had a few extra hours to kill I wandered around to find somebody to hang out with.

In one of the big meeting rooms I found a group of people crowded around the huge floor-to-ceiling window.  I went over to see what was going on and in the distance I could see a massive plume of black smoke rising from the ground.

I was told a  plane had crashed on take-off from O’Hare airport just a few moments earlier.  It had taken a dive and crashed right there where we were watching it through the window.  Of course we were all stunned and just stared in awe and silence, praying for the poor souls who hopefully would survive.

AA Flight 191 as it crashed on takeoff from Chicago O'hare Airport 5-25-1979

American Airlines Flight 191 captured as it crashes on takeoff from O’Hare Airport, May 25, 1979

Just about then 3 or 4 girls rushed into the room screaming “Has anyone seen PJ????”   I turned around and said “Here I am.”  The girls ran over to me, crying and grabbing my arms and feeling me and hugging me as if to see if I was really there.  One of the girls was carrying a sheaf of papers – the manifest of flights for all the company employees.  She was looking at me with wide, wide eyes and pointing to one of the lines on the manifest.

The girls all looked like they had just seen a ghost.  They held on to me tightly and told me the plane crash we were looking at was American Airlines Flight 191 – the flight I had been booked on to take me back to L.A. – the flight I had just changed……….

Every person on the flight perished – including several other employees from my company.

It turned out to be the worst air disaster in US history until 9/11 happened 20 some-odd years later.

AA Flight 191 news

I’m not sure it really registered at first – but when it sank in,  I sat down and my mind just went blank.  I think I must have been in some kind of temporary shock.  Worst of all was the horrifying realization that I had come so close to leaving my son an orphan.

I know I had to force myself to get on the flights to New York and back home to L.A.  I know that I did it – but in reality today I have barely any memory of it and no memory at all of my visit to my family.

Somehow I guess it wasn’t in my Heavenly Father’s plan to take me away just yet.

I was being given a second chance – one of the several close calls when I believe God was giving me a lesson on the frailty of life.

Soon I would be given an opportunity to use that second chance wisely or unwisely.

My choice would be to try even harder to follow the straight path.


More to come next time.

4 thoughts on “FLIGHT 191: A BRUSH WITH DEATH”

  1. Wow! What a narrow escape! You were just not meant to be on that doomed plane. As you say God decided it was not your time to die.


    1. Yes. You know what A, even after all these years and especially while posting this piece this morning, I still get so over-emotional thinking about this. When I was researching images to publish and even now when I look at them, all I could think of was those poor people inside and what hysteria and prayer must have been going on and they knew there would be no escape – and that had it not been for the hand of God I would have been one of them. I know you are thinking again that this is unbelievable – but its true. These experiences were like hands that removed the blinders from my eyes, that had clouded my vision for so much of my life. I’m going to send you an email in a minute so keep your eye out for it.


  2. God did not want you to go that day because He had plans for you and He loves you. At times when I tried to commit suicide in the past and did not succeed, I wondered why. I think it must be because I had to experience love which was sorely missing in my life before I could even think of leaving it. I am getting that love, but I am finding it difficult to accept it. I still feel unworthy of it.


    1. Rose, how could anyone as sweet and wonderful as you feel they are not worthy of love? I sent a private note you your email, keep your eye out for it. In the meantime YOU ARE LOVED, especially by all us people ghost see you online everyday! Check your e-mail, Dude.


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