NKU’s Harris has unique story

“I don’t want to use my connections to get where I want to go. Granted I’m 41 years old, I still kind of want to do this on my own,” says Shanda Harris, a sports business major at Northern Kentucky University. Harris’ hard work and her supportive family have helped her get through many difficult challenges, and have helped mold her into who she is today. A student turned flight attendant and student again, she has a unique and fascinating story to tell.

Harris first moved to the greater Cincinnati area in 1997 and took a job as a flight attendant with ComAir, an airline that was headquartered out of the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. “I thought by being a flight attendant that, not only would I be able to see the world, but I would also still be able to be home and see my family,” says Harris.

She was only 23 years old when she started at ComAir, “The plan was to fly until my daughter graduated college, then pursue something else,” Harris said. “That job was stability for her and for myself.” Little did she know, the next 15 years of her life would provide her some of the most memorable, unique, and even terrifying experiences of her life. The most notable of which was September 11, 2001. Harris was beginning a four-day trip, and the plan was for her to be in New York that Tuesday night. It was a normal morning flight from Cincinnati to Charlotte, when things got interesting. The flight she was on had around 30 passengers on board. Harris had just finished her beverage service when she received a call from the flight deck.

“There’s certain signals that they give you when they call, and you never hear the emergency signal. I turn, and I see the emergency button flashing,” Harris said. “So I pick up the phone and they say, “Shanda, we have to land immediately, terroristic threats,” and they hang up.” Prior to 9/11, Harris had only been trained to be aware of bombs. At that time, bomb threats were the most common threat to major airliners. Aside from that, the planes that Harris was on weren’t major airplanes and they didn’t go far. This meant that they were less likely to be a target for a hijacker. “Our biggest concern was getting struck by lightning or engine failure, not someone coming on and hijacking the plane,” said Harris.

On this particular day, the flight wasn’t full and Harris was working by herself. She stressed the importance of remaining calm in this situation: “I can’t panic or anything because that will cause everyone else to panic. I have to be calm during this,” Harris said. The passengers on the plane and Harris herself were not yet aware of the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York. No one on the plane found out about the attacks until later.

Before long, the flight deck called Harris again. They said, “We need to land immediately. Our choice is Tri-Cities, Tennessee or a cornfield. If we don’t land immediately, we’re going to be shot out of the sky.” The pilot tells Harris to sit down and prepare for an emergency landing. In the background, Harris can hear the other pilot communicating rapidly with Air Traffic Control. The pilots were still unaware of why they needed to land, and now they were being told if they didn’t, they would be shot out of the sky. Harris now has to find a way to tell the passengers what’s happening. She goes on the P.A. system and tells the passengers that there’s a small mechanical issue that requires the plane to land, and be taken care of. “I had to think of something that’s not going to make everyone panic,” she said.

Luckily, the plane landed at an airport in Tri-Cities, Tennessee. Harris was given clearance to open the main door of the plane. Around this time, the ramp agent at the airport approached Harris and the pilots and told them everyone needs to get off the plane. “There’s been a hijacking and a plane has been run into the twin towers,” said the ramp agent. However, there were two men on the plane that Harris couldn’t let leave. “I notice that there are two guys that have military clothes on, like they had just completed training,” said Harris. “They need plain clothes, I don’t care what you give them, they need something. They are targets.” The men were held on the plane and their bags were retrieved, allowing them to change clothes before exiting the plane.

When Harris and the pilots were finally able to exit, they did so without any of their possessions. Everything on the planes had to be checked and searched. “We couldn’t even contact people, couldn’t contact loved ones, family members, anything,” Harris said. While the captain contacted ComAir, Harris snuck away to contact her mother. After letting her family know she was okay, the focus now shifted to what’s next. Buses began taking passengers at the airport to their destinations, as long as the destinations were south. Any passengers who had destinations north of Tennessee were stuck. It remained like this for four days before the skies were open again and they were allowed to leave Tri-Cities. The airport became so full, that it could no longer take in any planes, and they were now being diverted to other airports.

After four days of being stuck in Tri-Cities, the crew was finally given clearance to return to Cincinnati. Unexpectedly for Harris, the plane took on passengers. “I was expecting an empty flight, but no. We took on passengers. So here we are, flying back to Cincinnati, and I don’t trust any of them.” At the time, no one was to be trusted. The country was in panic mode and no one knew what was coming next. “It’s only been four days, anything can happen. That was my thought process,” Harris said. The following months and years for the flight crew were very difficult on Harris and flight attendants all across the country. The government set forth new security standards and it made things a lot tougher on them. Such as going through security, what they could or couldn’t bring on the plane, how they had to pack, being patted down in front of passengers, and much more.

Harris flew for 11 more years with ComAir, until the company closed down in 2012. Now, the 41 year-old Harris is a student at Northern Kentucky University and living in Burlington, Kentucky. Harris is majoring in Sports Business and wants to focus on player relations. She grew up in a family of athletes, and was recruited as a high school freshman to run track at UCLA, Miami, and Tennessee, among others. “The reason why I want to do player relations is because I have had many friends that have played professional sports, so I was around it all the time,” said Harris. “I’ve gotten to see how difficult it was for them to get acclimated to their surroundings.” Being around those friends, Harris has helped them get through it, along with helping herself learn about the process. She quickly found that for a lot of athletes that were young and new to living on their own, they didn’t know how to do the simple things, because it had always been done for them. Harris says it doesn’t matter where she is or who she’s working with, she wants to be able to help athletes at all levels. “I’m not all into the fame and all that stuff. I’ve been there and done that. I’m just concerned with the well being of the athlete. That’s my biggest concern.”

A letter to my Great Grandpa

I was sitting here working on a study guide for an exam tomorrow. Writing definitions and reading pages and highlighting things. The game is on in the background. The NFL, as always, is my escape from reality and my favorite thing in the world. I received a text from my mom earlier today that my great grandpa, a man that we always called “Bear” had been taken to the hospital because he shot himself in the head. It may have been suicide, it may have been an accident. I don’t really know. Just a couple of minutes ago, I received another text from my mom. She said Bear has died. Immediately I could no longer focus on school work. It’s weird how that works. All of the sudden memories come flooding back to you. For some reason, I feel compelled to write him this letter. I don’t know why, but it just feels like the right thing to do. Maybe it’s my way of coping. I don’t know. But here goes.

Dear Grandpa,

One of my favorite quotes says, “They’ll forget what you did. They’ll forget what you said. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” You always found a way to make me feel so loved. I don’t know how to explain it. But you had such a warm presence. It was so comforting, and it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I am thankful for that.

You were so funny. It seems like every family get together you would get your plate of food, a can of pepsi, and find your spot. Within 20 minutes you were asleep and snoring. It was the funniest thing i’ve ever seen. The thing is, you did this every time and every time, it was still funny. I remember laughing so hard I was crying. The way you snored. The way you would wake yourself up, then fall right back asleep again. You were such a funny man.

You were such a good man. Honestly, I don’t know much about your early life. I wish that I did. I wish I knew more about how you became the man you were. I wish I could hear you tell more stories. I wish I could hear your wisecracks about Grandma and how she hated to be called “Granny,” and every time we called her that you would laugh. I wish I could hear your voice at least one more time. I wish I could feel the way you made me feel at least one more time. You were so interesting. You were so funny. You were so loved.

Thank you for taking such good care of grandma. She’s stubborn, and Lord knows you both went through a lot together. I can only imagine how she’s feeling right now. She loves you more than anything, I hope you know that.

I’m sorry for not being around that much. Especially as I got older. I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time with you guys. It was hard for both of you to get around. I should have visited more. I should have done more. I regret that I didn’t. I hate that you’re gone and I hate to think how things will change for our family without you.

Thank you for everything that you taught me. Thank you for always finding a way to make me feel so loved. Thank you for being a man I could look up to. Thank you for everything. I love you so much.



Never Forget.

Everyone has a story about September 11, 2001. There are millions of them. People will always tell you where they were and what they were doing on this day. Sometimes people get upset because others “dwell” on 9/11. But this event is not something we can just forget about. Even if we just have one day per year to talk about it, let us talk about it. Because it is important. It was something that changed our world more than anything in my lifetime. I was 6 years old on September 11, 2001 and I remember everything vividly. I don’t know how, but I do. I don’t know why I am going to share this story, but I want to because it helps me remember and it’s important to me. My story is nothing special, but it my piece of history.

I was at Heritage Christian School in Findlay, Ohio on September 11, 2001. I remember it being a normal day, a beautiful day. I don’t remember anything about getting up and eating breakfast and the drive to school, but I remember being pulled out of class. “You’re dad is here to pick you up,” the teacher said. I was confused but hey, I get to leave early! So my dad picks me up and at first he doesn’t say anything to me. We are just driving. We live about 5 minutes from the school. So we turn on to State Route 140, which is a long straight road that leads to the road our house was on. At the time there was nothing there, just a cornfield.

“Son, did your teachers tell you what happened today?”

“No, what happened?”

“Two airplanes hit the World Trade Centers in New York. America is under attack.”

I dont remember saying anything back to him. I just remember turning my head and looking out the window as we drove past the empty field. I looked up at the sky and it was beautifully blue. I distinctly remember seeing a plane in the air. I have no idea what it could have been. I know that later that day all planes were grounded, so I have to assume that it was before that time. I have often wondered what that plane could have been. I have wondered if it was United 93, but flight path records say that it didn’t come this far west into Ohio. Either way, I remember being very confused.

We get back to our house and the TV was still on Fox News. My dad and I sat on our ugly blue and yellow couch and watched the horror. I remember just watching that Fox News logo spin over and over again. I remember watching the replays of the impact, the buildings burning and falling. The news about the Pentagon, and then United 93 in Pennsylvania.

I just remember sitting there on that couch all day staring at it and watching everything with my dad. It’s one of those moments in my life that I will always carry with me, and something I will always cherish.

That day changed the United States of America. It changed our way of life. It changed the way we operate.

We will never forget that day and we never should. Although they had no direct impact on me, I am so grateful for the men and women that went running into those burning buildings that day to save lives. Those people are heroes and they represent what the United State of America is all about.

I have dreams about 9/11. They are silent, and I am all by myself walking through the dust-covered rubble. There is no noise. There is no wind. There is nothing but desolation. I walk through Ground Zero and that’s it. There are other dreams in which I sit on top of an empty Brooklyn Bridge and watch the buildings burn in silence and then I watch them fall.

Like I said, I don’t know why I want to share this stuff. My story isn’t special and it doesn’t mean much to many people. But to me it means a lot because it’s my memory and this is my platform to share it. I am thankful for the freedom to type it and tell the story.

I am proud to be an American. I will never forget September 11, 2001. United We Stand. May we never forget.

Things are better

Well we are into our third week of classes here at the great Northern Kentucky University, and I must admit that things are going well for me. I went home this past weekend to watch my old high school football team play, hang out with my friends, and watch them play soccer. It was really nice and reminded me exactly what and who I am doing all of this for. It felt good to be reassured that things wouldn’t change that much just because I was two hours away. I’ll be the first to admit that most of the time it’s just me in my head overreacting to things. Anyways, it was a good weekend. I am heading back this weekend too for Labor Day. It’s gonna be a nice long weekend and will probably be the last time I come home until early October. My pal JD got my ticket for the Ohio State game against Western Michigan on September 26th. I am super stoked for that, as I have never been to an Ohio State game before. It’s gonna be awesome to be with my pals and celebrate the birth of my buddy Kate with a 77-0 thrashing of Western Michigan.

There’s some more good news, too! I applied for an on-air position at Norse Code Radio (NCR), which is the radio station on campus here. I had an interview today and things went really well! It sounds like I have got the “job.” I say it like that because it’s not a real job per say, as I don’t get paid for it. But it will be good experience. I need to think of a show name and a slogan. We’ll see how things go with that as we continue. I will most likely go in later this week or next week for training and then be on-air doing a weekly show on Thursday afternoons from 1-3 PM. As far as I know it will be mainly just playing music. Hopefully the hits and things like that, I am looking forward to it and putting my own spin on things.

Well thats pretty much all I’ve got for today. I am gonna get some Starbucks and get ready to go to class in a little bit.

Until next time,


I’m not happy.

Well my first week of school at Northern Kentucky University is over, and it went pretty well. I like all of my classes and they all seem to be really good. The workload will be manageable and my schedule is favorable towards me. I have no doubt that I can do this and make good grades. I still haven’t really made any friends. I’ve met a few people that are in some of my classes and they seem cool. I’m sure things will get better there and the relationships with those people will strengthen. It’s still kinda hard though, not having any friends and all. It’s hard being alone all the time and doing so much on my own and not really having anyone to share any memories with. It’s different from what I’m used to. To be honest, I’ve been getting quite jealous of some of my friends who are moving to college and such. I say this because their dorms and everything look so perfect and clean and organized and awesome. I wish I had that. I wish I had that awesome dorm room with a cool roommate that is my best friend. I don’t have that. My roommate and I don’t have anything in common. He and I have very different interests and we come from different places. It sucks. He is extremely messy. It drives me nuts. He doesn’t really take care of himself, or it doesn’t seem like it. His side of the room is disgusting and it smells bad. I febreezed it today while he’s gone for the weekend. That stuff just bothers me so much because I have to have everything clean and organized.

I went to Fresh Fusion today. It’s a little festival type thing that the university has around Loch Norse. It’s meant to introduce new students to all the programs on campus and helped everyone get involved. I talked to some people and signed up for some things, including the campus radio station. The woman at the campus radio booth is in one of my classes and we had a good talk. Hopefully that leads to something good! I really want to work for campus radio and begin my career. I want to use everything as a stepping stone. Long story short there are positives and negatives, and I’m just not 100% happy with everything right now. I miss my friends and family and I can’t wait to go home and hang out with them the next two weekends. I’m gonna go watch Netflix for awhile, my Playstation can’t sign into PSN so I can’t play video games right now. Yeah, it sucks. Oh well. See you guys soon.


The Cincinnati Bengals and January. Two things that typically don’t go well together. On Sunday, they have a chance to repair their relationship, and provide a jolt of positive energy to a city and fan base that desperately needs it. Cincinnati will travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts on Sunday at 1:05 PM. In October, the Colts handled the Bengals rather easily, beating them 27-0 in Indianapolis.

These two teams are both quite different now than they were on October 19th. Cincinnati was without their three starting linebackers, AJ Green, and Jeremy Hill was just getting his feet wet in Hue Jacksons offense. Andy Dalton was 18/38 for 126 yards. The Bengals only had 135 yards on the day. Andrew Luck shredded the Bengals defense going 27/42 for 344 yards and 2 TD’s.

Because of the major changes between the two teams, much of that game can be thrown out the window. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Bengals exercised their primetime demons at home against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, now it’s time to exercise the playoff demons at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts have not been playing good football as of late, and their offensive line has struggled to protect Andrew Luck as of late. On top of all that, the Colts running game has been virtually non existent in recent weeks.

As expected, it all falls on the shoulders of Andrew Gregory Dalton. It’s no secret the Red Rifle has struggled in the playoffs, and where he goes, the offense goes with him. This game and this team is more suited to Andy’s strength by keeping the offense going with short, horizontal passes, and a run game that relies on rookie Jeremy Hill.

The most important aspect of the game for the Bengals is the pressure of the defensive line on Andrew Luck. Last week against  Pittsburgh the pressure was laughable, and there really wasn’t any at all. The most important part of any defense is the defensive line. When the line is playing well, it makes the jobs of the linebackers and secondary much easier. If Andrew Luck is given four to six seconds to throw the ball every play, it will be a long day for Cincinnati’s secondary.

The time has come for the Cincinnati Bengals to win a playoff game. Optimism is high among Bengals fans, and this matchup gives them every reason to be.