A Tribute to Ali Strickland!

This was taken in February 2014 in Boston. Ali always made you smile. Always.

When I am in pain or sad, I find writing my feelings out to be as cathartic as downing a few bottles of wine. To be honest, I usually do that too.

Earlier this week, I heard the news that my friend and coworker, Ali Strickland, passed away. It was quite shocking and came out of nowhere. After reading the posts on Facebook, and confirming with a friend that she was no longer with us, I sat on my bed staring at the wall asking the questions I expect everyone asks when someone they care about dies… What? How? When? What? How is that possible? 

Then… Why do all the good ones die so soon?

I also knew, that there were thousands of hearts breaking as they found out our beloved Ali had left this planet. As I write that, it’s still hard to believe. Death is always easier for the person who has died — they are gone and have no pain  — but the rest of us are left behind to spend the rest of our days picking up our broken hearts left behind by our sadness.

We all manage grief differently. For me, I felt it was important to write about Ali. And writing about Ali is extremely easy. In fact, she showed up at least three times in my book. Three times!?! That explains how incredible she was to me and the impact she had on my life and experiences.

One of my favorite memories of Ali was on a day trip we worked together back in 2014. I will share it because it makes me happy. I had picked up a one day trip to collect a few more hours. It was a terrible one day trip consisting of four flights all taking place on our small regional airplane. The other flight attendant position was not assigned and I worried about who would pick up the trip until I got a text from Ali: I’m picking up this day trip only because you are on it. Don’t drop it.

I was thrilled. Ecstatic. She had picked up a trip with me once before, one that would eventually turn into the story, The Undercover Dick Pilot.  It’s not until now, that Ali is gone, that I am honored that one of the most intense experiences of my flight attendant career included her. 

On our one day trip, we started at 8:00 a.m. and were scheduled to fly four short flights ending the day at 6:00 p.m. Easy as pie, but not really. More like, easy as pie dropped on the floor. If you know anything about the airline industry, using the word “easy” is never the correct term to use. Right before the last flight, in Washington D.C., the airplane had a mechanical and we ended up sitting on the airplane for five hours. The pilots bought us coffee, we laughed — like you always did with Ali — and the five hours felt like being at Disney with a friend. That’s not an exaggeration, ask anyone who knew Ali, anytime with her was like being on vacation.

That night, when we finally landed in base, we were exhausted. We walked off the airplane and the clock was well past midnight. As the four of us, pilots included, walked up the jetbridge she said, “Fuck. I missed the last bus and now I have to sleep in the crew lounge.” We both paused for a moment, and then busted out laughing. 

The captain looked over and said, “I have never worked with flight attendants so happy. We’ve been delayed for five hours and you’re both walking off the airplane laughing hysterical.”

Ali looked at him, “What are you gonna do? It is what it is.”

That was Ali. The person you always wanted to work with and be around. The person who turned a 16+ duty day into a fun adventure. And let me state, an adventure that would have been a nightmare with almost any other flight attendant at my airline. This may sound over the top, but Ali was like sunshine.  She’d walk in any room and immediately brighten it up. It was fascinating. I’ve never met anyone who walks around with that type of positive energy in my entire life, but Ali had it. 

I am honored to have known Ali Strickland. I have incredible memories of her that I am even more happy that I was able to document for eternity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by loss or stress, I can simply read about how wonderful Ali was to me and so many others.

Here are a few things I’m honored to have written about Ali: 

“With her wind blown blond curls, tall stature, and dark rimmed glasses, Ali* was fantastic. Electric. She lit up the entire airplane cabin on a red-eye flight.”

“Ali was the kind of person you wanted to work with on a shitty day. She spoiled you with her heart of gold and laugh so contagious you’d need a vaccine to prevent from catching the giggles when she erupted into laughter.”

“Ali giggled while taking a sip of her drink and placing it down on the round bar table. She laughed for no reason which made her more like a prepubescent teen than an older experienced woman. It was cute.”

“She placed her arm inside mine and held me tight as we took a quick left and followed the length of the building until it was time to turn right towards our hotel.”

“I was shaking with anger  and couldn’t help but yell and scream about Jumbo the entire way back to the hotel. Ali pet my arm and laid her head on my shoulder to calm my nerves. It worked.”

For those who knew Ali, they know that when the Universe made her — it broke the mold. There will never be another Ali. Kindness, joy, and enthusiasm radiated off her. Even if she was having a bad day, you never knew. We’d share stories and pictures of our cats on flights. She talked about how much she loved her sons and would always comment when she saw a Tesla. I talked about Matt. She calmed me down while arguing with a racist pilot in New Orleans. She was there the day I had a passenger reading a porn magazine on the flight and we had to get him taken off.

She’s the person you’d take a delay for so you could run off the airplane and give her a hug. 

We lost such an amazing soul. One that can never be replaced.

RIP Alison Strickland. You are soaring higher than any of us now!


*In the original published text, I changed Ali’s name to Abbie. In this tribute to her, I changed it to reflect her true name.