Jeffrey Collman

Jeffrey Collman
American Flight 11

Happiest in Flight

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, a flight attendant for American Airlines, had his normal flight pattern down pat: he worked the Boston-to- San Francisco route, an itinerary that linked two of his favorite cities and made for a reasonable commute home to Navato, Calif.

His presence on Flight 11 on Sept. 11 was a fluke: he had a birthday coming up on Sept. 28 and signed on for the extra trip so that he could take time off to turn 42 with a little party at home. An inspired dessert chef, he was likely planning to get creative and bake his own birthday cake.

And he didn't mind flying the extra shift: traveling was his idea of bliss. Becoming a flight attendant three and a half years ago had been the culmination of a stubborn campaign. After United turned him down, he applied to American; he was ecstatic when he was accepted on his second try.

His on-the-ground passion was tennis. The week before his death, he attended the United States Open in Queens.

"He had friends all over the world; he was a people person," said his stepmother, Kay Collman from Yorkville, Ill., his hometown. "He'd know the life histories of his passengers after just one flight."

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 9, 2001.

Jeffrey Collman loved to fly and loved to travel.

The Yorkville native determined at a young age that the easiest way to do both was to become a flight attendant.

Collman, 41, who lived in Novato, Calif., caught on with American Airlines five years ago.

"It was his dream job. He had friends all around the world from his travels," his stepmother, Kay Collman said from her home in Yorkville.

Tuesday, Collman was working at his dream job when American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and then slammed into the first World Trade Center tower.

The Collmans last heard from their son via e-mail the night before he left Boston, telling them he was headed to Los Angeles.

They knew quickly Tuesday that he must have been on the plane they saw on TV crash into the tower.

"When anything happened bad before involving planes, he'd call us and say, `I'm OK.' But he didn't this time. We knew in our hearts before it was confirmed," Kay Collman said.

On Saturday, Collman's parents were at O'Hare International Airport to catch a flight to Boston for grievance counselling arranged by American Airlines.

As she waited to board the plane, Kay Collman recalled how much Jeffrey loved to travel. She used to tell him he should be saving his money for when he got older.

She remembered him telling her: "There's no guarantee I am going to be old."

Profile courtesy of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

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