Heidi Snow Cinader
In 1996: Lived in Manhattan
Now: Lives in San Francisco, currently works for ACCESS, a group she founded to aid grieving people after air disasters
The crash changed her life and career path, Heidi Snow Cinader recalled 20 years later.
Cinader was starting a life with her fiancé, French professional hockey player Michel Briestroff, whom she remembers as a man at the center of her life in Manhattan after college.
When he left to catch TWA Flight 800 for Paris, Cinader thought the two would only be separated for days — not forever.
When Cinader was informed of the crash, she could not believe Briestroff was on the flight.
“Of course he survived because he’s so young, he’s so strong,” she remembers thinking upon seeing the plane’s debris broadcast on television.
It would take two grief cycles—hoping he was not on the flight and then living with the confirmation after his remains were found — for Cinader to come to terms that Briestroff was really gone. From there, she went “almost like on auto pilot” into helping people dealing with air disasters, she said.
For the last two decades years, Cinader has worked at AirCraft Casualty Emotional Support Services, an organization she founded that offers a 24-hour hotline and a mentorship opportunity for grieving individuals. Th organization matches mothers with mothers, brothers with brothers, and so on to pair those new to air disasters with someone further along in the grief process, Cinader said.
The organization also offers training to first responders to help them adequately support grieving relatives.
Cinader, now married with three daughters, based the organization off her personal experience in TWA Flight 800, realizing that talking to others helped her tremendously in her grieving process.
“The most important thing ended up being . . . ensuring that other people don’t have to go through their loss alone,” Cinader said.
The crash is often on Cinader’s mind, she said. Anytime a plane crashes, everyone who has experienced a similar trauma is reminded of their own loss, and could possibly go through another grief cycle, Cinader said.
“They [those lost] will never be forgotten,” Cinader said.