Price recollects parent’s death in Flight 93 crash

The Newtonite

by Hilary Brumberg and Perrin Stein
Jean and Don Peterson arrived at the airport early for their flight to San Franisco. They switched to an earlier flight and boarded without mishap. Once the plane took off, its trajectory differed fatally from the planned route.
The Petersons, principal Jennifer Price’s mother and stepfather, along with the 38 other passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93 never reached their destination on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
They all died in Shanksville, Penn., where the plane crashed when the flight’s passengers and crew diverted terrorists’ possible attempt to fly the plane into the White House.
Price spent most of September 11 unaware of her mother and step-father’s deaths because  they were not originally scheduled to be on board Flight 93.
Instead, as one of the housemasters at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, she focused on communicating information to students and faculty about the attacks and helping students get in touch with their parents.
Around 4:30, she received a phone call from her uncle, who delivered the news of her mother and stepfather’s deaths. “I did not understand what had happened,” Price said. “I still struggle to explain it because this was sort of an unexplainable event.”
As a part of the 10th anniversary of September 11, an organization called the Family and Friends of Flight 93 unveiled a national monument where the crash occurred.
Price, who was the organization’s first president, attended the ceremony in Shanksville with her partner and children and the other families who lost relatives in the crash.
“Friends and Families of Flight 93 created the memorial to honor and remember what happened,” Price said. “This ceremony helped me bring closure to what happened and helped my kids understand the event.”
Price’s children are seven and 10  years old. The oldest was born merely 18 days before the deaths of Price’s mother and stepfather. “Having my first child and losing my mother within three weeks of each other was extremely challenging,” she said.
Price’s methods of coping with her mother and stepfather’s tragic deaths helped define her as a person, she said. “Until that day, I was a kid for whom everything went right. I did well in school. I went to Princeton. I became a teacher, and the students liked me. I got an administrative position, and my colleagues liked me. But, the true measure of a person is not what goes right. Instead, it is what goes wrong—what is difficult.”
By working through the challenge of losing her mother and stepfather and raising a newborn child, Price learned resilience and developed inner strength, which have helped her as principal, she said.
In addition to gaining confidence in her ability to “get through tough stuff,” Price said her parents’ sudden deaths gave her the ability to relate to people with tragedy in their lives. “That’s not a great skill, but unfortunately, it helps in this job.”