Jill Pall, the most recent recipient of JetBlue’s Flying it Forward campaign, has chosen James D., a Southern California police officer, as the next ticket holder and good samaritan to take a flight for the sake of carrying out a humanitarian effort.
James D. is an 11-year police veteran living in the Long Beach area and will be the seventh flier to carry the traveling ticket. Him and his partner at the police department, Melissa A., who are both avid runners, have chosen to travel to Boston to pay their respects to the Boston Marathon bombing events and recognize those people whose lives were lost and affected during the race.
Jill, who hosted speaking engagements as an advocate for ovarian cancer awareness and early detection, flying from New York to Long Beach for her cause, was flier number six. It was her job to choose the next recipient. She hails from an NYPD family and instantly gravitated toward James’ #FlyingItForward story.
When asked why the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings were his first thought for a reason to fly, James said, “To be honest, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, that I’m always thinking about. I’m a runner, I’m dating a runner, I’m surrounded by runners at race events at least once a month. I immediately thought of Boston.”
James’ original plan was to visit the family of Sean Collier, the MIT officer who was shot and killed by terrorists at the scene. James’ experience as a policeman puts him in a unique position of understanding.
“You have to rush in and protect people not really knowing what you’re up against,” he explained. “I know that feeling and I know what it’s like to be lost and confused and scared, but you have a job to do and you have to do it, you have to put other before you. I relate to the event as a participant in a race, but also as a first responder.”
However, Collier’s family is enduring the trial for the second suspect of the incident, an emotional time that requires a respectful amount of privacy.
“In theory, if I’d had the chance to meet the mother… I really just want to give her a hug and let her know that Sean is loved and that he is not forgotten. If I was in that situation, if my mother was in that situation, I would want another officer to comfort her, to let her know that she has an extended family and that we’re all here for her.”
Photo courtesy of Streetwise.
While in Boston, James and Melissa will be visiting Collier’s memorial as well as the Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial in Copley Square. The two mapped out the Boston Marathon route in order to run the final leg in honor of the victims, weather permitting.
James’ department had a plaque made in Collier’s memory which he and Melissa will present to the MITPD as a gesture of solidarity from the west coast to the east. Plaques have also been made by UCLA and UCI, which James will also present to MIT officers.
“There was another officer that was shot and survived, Officer Richard Donohue,” James said. “We're meeting with him to give him a police challenge coin. It's a token of congratulations or appreciation, something that you give to somebody when they have done something well and you want to show them your appreciation. We’re also giving him a police patch to show him also that we stand united with him and that we support him and appreciate everything he has done for his community”
It’s been over a year now since the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 where four people were killed and over a hundred were seriously injured. “Some of these victims, they lost limbs, they were injured, they will be forever emotionally impacted,” James explained. “Anything we can do to help them heal, mentally, physically and emotionally...
“A year is when people usually start to forget about things and I just wanted to make sure that the story and the memory lives on and that we don’t forget the victims and we don’t forget their stories.” James concluded, “People tend to think of the story as a tragedy but really it’s a story of hope, survival and endurance.”
During their trips, fliers will document their experiences, which will be brought to life on Flying it Forward. Now that the ticket is heading to Boston, one lucky Bostonian can tweet about his or her good intentions in hopes of receiving the eighth JetBlue ticket.