Years After Terrifying Plane Incident, Rachel Neal Is Promoting Her Book And Short Film

By Mike Holtzclaw
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Former flight attendant Rachel Neal shares her journey from recovering from a devastating accident to becoming a teacher, writer and now a filmmaker.

Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

A lot has happened to Rachel Neal in the 23 years since she was badly burned in an airplane fire while serving as a flight attendant for ValuJet.

A lot of surgeries, a handful of career changes, a family.

Now, with an online advice column, a book and a short film about to hit the festival circuit, the 51-year-old Kecoughtan High School graduate figures it was all part of the same journey.

“It’s funny,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Atlanta, “because when you look at everything, as a result of that (airplane fire), I was kind of led down this path to what I’m doing now. You can think something is the worst thing ever, that you’ll never recover, and it ends up turning around and allowing you to accomplish great things.”

Her book, “Hey Rachel: Real Talk, Real Relationships, Real Advice,” came out in December, compiling some of the best and most provocative material from the relationship advice column she runs at

The 18-minute film “Raggity Anns,” inspired by some of the stories in the book, started out as a feature-length screenplay but was condensed to a short in order for Neal to retain creative autonomy over the content. It already has won awards at various events and has been accepted to play at the Independent Shorts Awards to be held in Los Angeles in February.

It’s the latest step in a journey that began on June 8, 1995, when a ValuJet DC-9 caught fire as it was seconds away from taking off on a runway in Atlanta. Neal, then 28, was a flight attendant seated in the rear of the plane when she looked down and saw flames at her feet.

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