Being assigned to a Papal Charter had been my dream for a long time, more so because of my respect and love for Pope John Paul II.
Bill (my husband) and I had put in a request several months prior to the charter. We hoped that a combination of our languages (Greek, French, Lithuanian), our having been married in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and our records with TWA would help us. At one point, without my knowledge, Bill went to Pat Rice (Manager In Flight) and Judy Zimmer (General Manager). He asked them that if only one of us could be chosen which he assumed was the case, to please choose me and not him. They told him that there were many qualified people and that nothing was for certain. It was Pat Rice, weeks later, who called to inform me of our assignment. A precedent was broken by giving me the Flight Service Manager position. A male FSM had always been used in the past internationally. In my opinion, it was time for an older, woman FSM (the crew consisted of many FSMs who worked as Flight Attendants). Later it was told to me that the selection process was done by the company and union together.
A week before the charter, I injured my foot by putting a chair leg on it and sitting down. What pain! What a mess! Nothing would keep me from flying the charter so I did not mention this to anyone at the time.
In Florida, Bill and I kept in touch with JFK & STL supervisors as to plans, services, procedures, studying all as it became available.
October 6, 1995, we flew to New York and went to Hangar 12. The preparations on the a/c were unbelievable…the enthusiasm, the work, the happiness of everyone involved was unprecedented.
October 7, 1995, the crew from New York left on TWE to Baltimore. (This little commuter airline no longer exists.) We stayed at the Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel, across from Camden Yards, where the Holy Father would be appearing the following day.
The STL based flight attendants joined us for dinner. Some of us went to a moving Mass at the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The crew belonged to many different religious faiths. It was not part of the criteria for being chosen.
The morning of October 8th was spent in briefings. We received extensive packages about the flow of services, procedures, protocol, etc. The crew members chose working positions. Harold Newton would be working the galley in First Class, Bill Kelly would be the First Class aisle person, Ratan Bhappu the extra floater. Karen Sikora would be in the next galley with Carolyn Hamilton and Anna Delmolino in the next area. Mary Ellen Norton-Hayes, the aft galley, Susan Exum, Oksana Faller aisle in the aft section. I would be in the aisle in the aft section and wherever needed.
At 4 PM three Super Shuttle vans transport the crew and TWA officials to the BWI cargo facility. Prior to boarding Shepherd I, Secret Service checked each crew member and TWA passenger against a master list which has been screened in advance.
Chefs come on board to provide even more detailed information about the food and its presentation. The press boarded early and the services began hours before departure.
A helicopter with the Holy Father landed. There were ceremonies and speeches. Vice President Gore was there to see the Holy Father of. The Cardinals and other high officials boarded first.