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Flying into history

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Flying  into history

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What started out as an ordinary day for flight attendant Diana Galloway turned out to be history in the making.For Diana, a flight attendant based in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, it was supposed to be like any other routine flight to and from Nashville, Tennesse. But there would be nothing routine about it.Diana and the crew she flew with that day on Atlantic Southeast Airlines – captain Rachelle Jones, first officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendant Robin Rogers – became the first ever commercial flight crew made up entirely of African American women.Call it fate, or coincidence, Diana and her flight team couldn’t have scripted that moment.“Originally, the first officer, who was a white female, became sick during flight and they asked for a replacement,” Diana told EASY during a recent visit to Barbados.Thirty minutes before the second leg of the round trip flight, first officer Stephanie Grant was called up to fill in.“We are only known to the company by numbers which are assigned to us,” said Diana. “When our numbers come up that’s how we’re paired up for assignments. It was a a stroke of chance that the flight came up.”Diana jokingly admits that she didn’t even think the passengers on board were aware that the entire crew was black.“We went through the flight not even thinking about it,” she revealed. “We just really showed up to work one day, and the next thing we were flying into history.”Diana, who was born to Barbadian parents, decided to become a flight attendant after putting her dream on hold for many years.“I had always wanted to be a flight attendant. I chose to take care of my kids at first,” Diana revealed. “When I turned 40, I decided that it was something I wanted to do. Maybe I was going through a mid-life career crisis, but I was determined to do it.“My family was very excited and happy because they would be able to travel more frequently. The benefits were more interesting to them than anything else. Since most of our family is in the Caribbean, it would give us a opportunity to visit family more often.”Now at age 50, Diana is a seasoned flight attendant with 11 years of experience. But nothing takes the place of that historic day of February 12, 2009.“When we landed in Nashville, we told a customer service agent, ‘This is the soul sister flight’ and asked her to take a picture of us on our cellphones, and somehow it ended up on CNN.” Since the flight took place during Black History Month, soon after the nation’s inauguration of the first African American president, historic black achievements were being lauded.Within 24 hours, Diana and the “Fab Four”, as they were now being dubbed, became national news on major media outlets, countless blogs and websites. Captain Jones is currently one of only ten African American female commercial airline captains in all of America.Since that time Diana has been reaching out to African American youngsters.“We do a lot of speaking engagements to youth in terms of their careers, where we try to encourage them to be pilots, engineers, astronauts, the president – whatever they want to be,” she says. That history-making moment a year ago, Diana says, has impacted her life.“It taught me that you just never know what God’s plans are for you,” she stated. “We just really showed up to work one day and the next thing we were flying into history.”