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Flight attendant continues crusade

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Jan Brown of Schaumberg, Ill., has been on a crusade the past 25 years and she hopes it will end soon.

The First Flight Attendant on United Airlines Flight 232 has been petitioning and meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration mandating child safety seats be used on all commercial airline flights.

Her mission began immediately following the plane crash on July 19, 1989 at the Sioux City airport. A toddler Brown had been previously calming during the airplane’s descent died in the crash.

Evan Tsao, 22 months old, was one of four lap children on the plane. Brown, using the instructions provided her as a flight attendant, told passengers with children on their laps to wrap the child in a blanket and pillow, place the child on the floor and hold them with their hands and feet.

“It sounded good when I learned it in a classroom, but at that moment, I realized it made no sense,” she said.
Sylvia Tsao, like the other parents, followed the directions. Evan was thrown toward the back of the cabin after his mother lost her grip as the airline crashed. Of the 296 souls on board, 112 died and 184 survived.

Brown encountered Tsao who was heading back into the plane to find her son, who had already died from smoke inhalation. Tsao confronted her, saying, “You told me to put my baby on the floor. I did and now he’s gone.”

Brown replied, “That was the best thing to do. That was all we had.’’

FAA regulations state children under 2 years of age may fly for free and are not required to be restrained in their own seats. They are permitted to sit on the laps of an adult.

Brown pointed out many people believe allowing a child under 2 to fly without restraint is safe because airlines allow it.

“Where is the logic?” she asked. “These same people have no trouble buckling their child into a car traveling 60 miles per hour on an interstate; yet, they see no need for buckling them in on a plane going much faster.”

The FAA rule remains unchanged a quarter century later, despite Brown’s persistent lobbying as a child seat advocate.

“When might they change it?” she asked. “They told me when there were enough deaths.”

Brown, a member of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumberg, retired in 1998 and decided to return to college.

“I started out as a language major, then switched to history and ended up with a ministry degree in 2012 from Saint Anselm College, a Benedictine college in Manchester, N.H.,” she said. “I believe God chooses where we should be and I just put myself in his hands.”

On her business card, Brown has a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas, “Love makes us give ourselves as far as possible to our friends.”

The 73-year-old embraces those thoughts as she has lobbied for legislation, written letters, and delivered speeches on the importance of child restraints for lap children.

During her visit to Sioux City she encouraged individuals to sign her petition drive “to end lap children on planes.”

“I believe God left me here to do this,” she insisted.

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