Go Forward in Faith [Main Story]
here are many of us who have figured out ways to try to move forward; there are some of us who still struggle.” These are the words of Melodie Homer, in a 2010 blog for the LeRoy W. Homer, Jr., Foundation.
Homer is the president and founder of the foundation, which started in 2002. “Establishing and working with the foundation has been a constructive and rewarding way to cope with the reality of my loss,” explains Homer. Mount Holly, New Jersey, church member Homer lost her pilot husband, LeRoy, on September 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. That flight, hijacked by terrorists, was headed for Washington, D.C.
Life immediately changed that day for Homer and the couple’s 1-year-old daughter. Along with countless others whose relatives, friends, and coworkers were killed on Flight 93 and the attacks at the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers, their loss was profound. Homer was left to pick up the pieces as a single mom. “There are those who say we need to not think about the events of that day,” Homer says on the foundation’s home page. “But even if you did not lose a loved one, the world changed, and those changes are impossible to ignore. . . . There may be this prevailing thought that people want to forget. I don’t think it’s possible.”
In remembrance of her husband and his passion for flying, Homer, along with family and friends, created the foundation. “It was a way to focus my energy and pain on something,” explains Homer. “I had so much tension and anxiety and I just felt that I really needed something to focus on.”
The foundation’s mission is to encourage and support young adults—mainly through scholarships—who want to pursue careers as professional pilots. LeRoy, first officer of Flight 93, had a lifelong love of flying—completing his first solo flight at 16. Homer wanted to give young people with similar aspirations the opportunity they might not have otherwise. “We thought through the concept of what we could do that would really reflect LeRoy. We came up with the first step toward [a person’s] flight career, which is pilot certification,” Homer says. The foundation also conducts outreach programs to disadvantaged New Jersey schools, introducing children to aviation.
“Many of the foundations that were started because of September 11 have ceased to exist,” says Jane Oswari, vice president of the foundation and fellow church member. “But nine years later we are still awarding scholarships.” According to Oswari, 13 scholarships have been issued. The most current recipient (2011) is Vishra Patel from Norco, California, a recent high school graduate who is attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University this fall.
Homer, an oncology nurse, is currently employed as a clinical nurse instructor at Burlington County Community College in New Jersey. Featured in the July 9, 2008, cable news show Comcast Newsmaker’s Everyday Joes
, Homer has also authored two health-related children’s books and has coauthored a chapter in a nursing textbook. She and her children live in Marlton, New Jersey.
As the tenth anniversary of September 11 draws near, Homer offers encouragement: “Even though you may ask why you suffered the loss, you’ll get the answer one day. God will give you the answer one day. Keep your faith strong. . . . Don’t lose your faith; that’s what is going to help you get through.”
Homer adds: “I have that certainty that I’ll see LeRoy again. If I didn’t have that, especially at the beginning, I don’t know how I would have made myself go forward.”
—Kimberly Luste Maran is an assistant editor of the