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Home : News : Nation and World
7/23/2014 7:56:00 AM
Crash survivor has been on a mission to make flying safer for children
Catholic News Service photo
From left, Rosa Fitch, Jan Brown, Susan White Callender and Capt. Al Haynes attend a July 20 memorial service at the Anderson Dance Pavilion in Sioux City, Iowa, for those who perished in the 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232. The 25th anniversary of the Sioux City plane crash that killed 112 people brought together some of the 184 survivors and first responders.
Catholic News Service photo
From left, Rosa Fitch, Jan Brown, Susan White Callender and Capt. Al Haynes attend a July 20 memorial service at the Anderson Dance Pavilion in Sioux City, Iowa, for those who perished in the 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232. The 25th anniversary of the Sioux City plane crash that killed 112 people brought together some of the 184 survivors and first responders.
Catholic News Service

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Jan Brown of Schaumberg, Illinois, has been on a crusade the past 25 years and she hopes it will end soon.

The retired flight attendant 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 crash of United Airlines Flight 232 July 19, 1989, at the Sioux City airport in which 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 told The Catholic Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City.

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 into the runway. Of the 296 souls on board, 112 died and 184 survived.

Brown encountered Tsao as she was heading back in 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.

She said she "started out as a language major, then switched to history and ended up with a ministry degree" in 2012 from Benedictine-run St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. "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 said.

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