Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is the kind of plane crash story I love!

Because in this plane crash story everyone survives! Well, one person died in this case. Which is still miraculous considering the fact that a 737 broke into three pieces. And it seems that they (whoever looks into these things) think that the passenger might have died of a heart attack which my have happened plane crash or no.

Anyways, this got me reminiscing on a little plane phobia I have developed over the years. I try to hang onto all the plane crash headlines in which everyone survives- like that one a few years ago when a plane crashed into the Hudson river in New York. And I really try to forget the ones that proclaim "Plane becomes fiery inferno! All perish!"

There was a time when I loved flying on planes. Usually a plane trip was the beginning of a vacation so there was always the anticipation of exciting days to come. I loved the sensation of taking off and seeing all those gravity bound objects retreating from view. I loved flying through the clouds. Occasionally, like when Peter and I traveled to Oregon in 2006, we experienced great views of mountains from the air. I loved the in flight movies especially when there was a TV on the back of the seat in front of you! I loved it that people bring you food and drinks while you relax and read.

My love for flying even survived 9/11 when we were all painfully reminded how little control we actually have on planes (and in life). Then one day a few years ago Peter and I watched a PBS documentary on plane crashes. The show was very interesting and covered the often tragically reactive stance on plane safety that is practiced by many airlines. Meaning that instead of proactively trying to solve problems and consistently working for higher safety standards, many airlines wait for a catastrophe before acting. This isn’t just airlines. This is how a lot of industries work and probably how a lot of people live their lives. At the time, I really didn’t feel inordinately disturbed by the show. The one thing I did find horrifying was the description of TWA flight 800. In the middle of its Atlantic crossing it broke in two. Apparently, the front half of the plane, where the cockpit is located, is an anchor for the vehicle. So when the front half blew off and plummeted to the earth, the back portion spiraled skyward for hundreds of feet before crashing down into the sea. I was aghast trying to imagine what those people might have been thinking as they careened through the sky; the fear they must have felt. Of course, later Peter and I conjectured that they might have all passed out with the loss of cabin pressure. I hope so. Anyways, other than that, I had no reason to think that this particular show had triggered a plane phobia.

Yet when I boarded a plane to fly to New York in June of 2007, I was nervous. I don’t think it was just the documentary that did it. I think it was the realization of many things: the fact that terrorism is a real threat, the graphic description of TWA that will never leave my memory, a new found anxiety of heights/falling (this will be a whole other post, but I realized that I have an anxiety of heights when I was ON A MOUNTAIN next to a sulfur pit (of death).) plus a long standing fear of explosions (sometimes I’m even afraid that the microwave will explode..??), and finally a growing seriousness that just comes from growing up and contemplating all of the evils of the world. I think all of these things contribute to my flying freak outs.

So anyways, we boarded the plane to NYC and the trip goes well. Finally we begin to descend… and then we ascend again. I look out the window and all I see is water. I know NYC is a port city but I’m thinking something is wrong and I should probably see some land if we are close to, you know, LANDING. Then a flight attendant makes an announcement that we are to prepare for an emergency landing. She instructs us in the procedure. Stone cold fear gripped me like a vice. Since my last glance out the window had revealed only water, I surmised that we would be making an emergency landing in the ocean! I was sure that I was on my way to a watery grave.

What will happen to Peter and Leslie? Will they survive this terror in the sky? To find out you'll have to return tomorrow because this post is already long.

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