CHICAGO -United Airlines Employees CU President/CEO Bob Bream has a bird’s-eye view of the O’Hare Airport tarmac from his office at the CU’s headquarters, but there wasn’t much to see on the day of and the day following the terrorist attacks. “My office really overlooks O’Hare. We’re in the flight path here. Looking out of my office the sky is always filled with airplanes, but there’s nothing in the sky now. The airplanes are just stacked up. It’s eerie, unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced,” said Bream. The CU’s headquarters are right next to United’s reservation center, which also doubles as a crisis center. Two of the flights hijacked and crashed were United’s. “We’ve had several of our employees working on United’s crisis team, tasked with calling the relatives as well as calling people whose loved ones did not get on that flight. We’re at the center of it here in more ways than one,” said Bream. Bream said the first priority is the personal safety and emotional health of all impacted by the attacks, but the CU is also monitoring the health of its own operations. Because airports were closed, the majority of the CU’s branches, which are located in airports throughout the country, were closed. The CU’s main headquarters in Chicago was open. On the day of the attacks, Bream said CU employees were allowed to go home, with only a skeleton crew left operating the CU. Bream said there wasn’t much member activity the day of the attack, but the CU was anticipating heavier activity the day after. “Actually it was a little surprising. We were expecting heavy traffic, but we didn’t get it. There was no run on shares or anything like that. Just eerie silence, both from our members as well as the airport,” said Bream. Bream said the CU was working on identifying how many people aboard the two United flights were members of the CU. He was sure several of the four pilots and seven flight attendants were members. “I don’t have an exact number yet,” said Bream. “It’s tragic when you’re this close to it. We are really part of the United family, and take it pretty hard. When you see those graphics replayed on TV over and over it gets into your psyche.”
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