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‘Miracle’ Flight Survivor Says PTSD Related To Her Firing

By Mark Washburn, The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A survivor of the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight has filed suit against Staples, alleging the office-product giant fired her in part for taking extended leave because of PTSD related to the crash.

Denise Lockie of Charlotte, a passenger in seat 2C when the New York-to-Charlotte U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, says in the suit that she received notice of termination during unpaid leave for treatment of anxiety and acute stress.

Staples, based in Framingham, Mass., did not respond to a request for comment.

In the suit, filed in Mecklenburg Superior Court, Lockie says she was fired in retaliation for seeking leave and because she filed a workers’ compensation claim related to the crash.

Lockie says that after the crash, she began to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks related to flying, though she continued to work full time and flew frequently as an executive for Staples. On one occasion, she says, the jetliner she had boarded had to return from the taxiway to the LaGuardia terminal to let her off because she suffered a panic attack.

In the suit, filed by attorney Sean Herrmann of Van Kampen Law, Lockie says she was treated for acute stress disorder and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the crash and has been under psychological and psychiatric care since January 2009. Since the crash, she says, she hasn’t been able to fly in bad weather, on prop planes, or at night.

In December 2012, the suit says, Lockie went on a six-month leave prescribed by her psychologist to “fully recover from the trauma related to the crash.” Six months later, an extension was sought in the leave, but Lockie instead received a form letter from COBRA telling her that it was her new insurer because she’d been terminated. Staples notified her a few days later of her firing, the suit says, which Lockie says violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Flight 1549, which lost both engines when it flew into a flock of Canada geese after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, was bound for Charlotte with 150 passengers and a crew of five. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was able to coax the 50-ton jetliner onto the Hudson River near the ferry docks, and all aboard were rescued.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found no one to be at fault in the extraordinary incident and no lawsuits were ever filed against U.S. Airways, the plane’s manufacturer, Airbus, or any other entity involved in the flight. After the NTSB findings, passengers were offered $10,000 in exchange for release against future claims.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Former New York Times Editor Tells Grads She Will Continue In Journalism

By Mark Washburn, The Charlotte Observer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In her first public remarks since her abrupt dismissal as executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson told Wake Forest University graduates Monday that she doesn’t know what she will do next, “so I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you.”

Removed Wednesday from the top news job at the nation’s foremost newspaper in a move that touched off discussions about gender equity and modern management style, Abramson threw out her prepared speech, “The Importance of a Truly Free Press,” and focused instead on the theme of resilience — personal and professional.

Abramson said her sister called the day after her firing and told her that their father would be just as proud of her now in watching her deal with her dismissal as he would be by her leadership at the Times. “Show us what you are made of, he would say,” Abramson said.

So, she told students, remember that when faced with a rejection letter or you miss out on a job opportunity. “Now I’m talking to anyone who’s been dumped,” she said: “When that happens, show what you are made of.”

Abramson, 60, found herself in the role of newsmaker rather than journalist Monday, and appeared comfortable with the reversal. She smiled for a scrum of photographers as she approached the dais in the commencement procession, blue jeans and sneakers peeking out beneath her ceremonial robe.

Abramson was the newspaper’s first female executive editor, one of the paramount positions in American media. She served as the paper’s Washington editor and managing editor before assuming the top role in 2011.

In the wake of her firing, media writer Ken Auletta of the New Yorker magazine reported that Abramson had hired a lawyer to negotiate a recent pay raise after learning her compensation wasn’t as high as her male predecessor. Her sometimes-brusque management style became a point of discussion as well, with some commentators asking whether it would have been an issue if she were male.

Over the weekend, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. released a statement clarifying his reasons for the firing. Abramson, he said, had lost the support of key top executives, “and could not win it back.” Sulzberger said seeking a raise played no part in the move.

“During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues,” Sulzberger’s statement said.

Sulzberger said he addressed the issues with Abramson, including during a recent job evaluation, and that she acknowledged there were problems. “We all wanted her to succeed,” he said.

Monday was Abramson’s turn to talk, though she did not address the reasons for her firing.

She said the overall work of journalism helps keep democracy resilient and she intends to continue in the profession in a yet-to-be-determined role.

She said she was proud of her tenure at the Times. “It was the honor of my life to lead the newsroom,” she said.

Abramson is known to have at least two tattoos, one of them the Times old English “T” corporate logo. She said she was asked Sunday night by some Wake Forest students whether she would have it removed.

“Not on your life!” she told graduates.

Abramson said the only hesitation she had about keeping her appointment, made in March, to address graduates in front of Wait Chapel was the “small media circus following me would detract attention away from you. What total knock-outs you are.”

AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand