Madeline Amy Sweeney found her calling as a flight attendant a year after graduating from college. The Long Island native drove from Boston to California to start a career in fashion, and after a year, decided to instead become a flight attendant in Dallas.
After she and her husband, Michael Sweeney, wed in 1993, the American Airlines flight attendant settled in the Boston suburb of Acton, Massachusetts. In the winters she savored time skiing in Colorado and spent summers on the beach in Cape Cod with Michael and their two young children. Sweeney loved being a mother and normally kept a light work schedule in order to be with her children.
On Sept. 11, she took an extra shift to fill in for a colleague who had fallen ill. Her husband later recalled that she had called him before takeoff, disappointed that she was not able to take her kindergarten-aged daughter to the school bus.
Once in the air, the plane was overtaken by hijackers. Soon after, Sweeney called American Airlines Flight Service at Logan Airport. She reached her colleague and friend, service manager Michael Woodward, and calmly relayed information to him about the hijackers.
After reporting valuable information for about 20 minutes, her final words to Woodward were, “I see water. I see buildings. We’re flying low, we’re flying way too low.” Moments later, the aircraft crashed through the North Tower, killing all aboard.
Today Sweeney’s life and bravery are honored at the 9/11 Memorial with a white rose that marks what would have been her 51st birthday.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist