Friday, July 10, 2015

What it feels like when you think you are crashing

This was the cursed plane after we landed in Ireland
We all are going to die someday. Death is one of the certain things in life but the uncertain thing is the when and the where. And thank goodness we don't know these things or this information would dictate our our lives. There is a freedom in not knowing when you will die. And that was a freedom I took for granted until I thought I was going to die in a plane crash.

My two kids and myself set out last Friday morning to fly to on Delta Flight 73 to Atlanta, Georgia and then onto to Myrtle Beach, SC for sour annual trip to see my family. However when we got to the airport, our flight had been delayed by three hours due to a problem with one of the engines.

So we sat waiting at the gate and watched the mechanics work diligently on the plane and we then watched them test out the faulty engine. It was cleared by the safety standards and all 400 or so of us boarded this gigantic plane on our way to Atlanta.

I am usually quite nervous about flying, but not this time. I had flown a hundred times by this point and to be honest I was actually looking forward to the relaxation on the flight. I could read while the kids watched a film or two, or three, as they normally did.

And that was exactly what happened, we got into the air, the kids began watching a movie and I settled in with a book I had been dying to read all summer. Soon after, our lunch was brought to us and the entire plane was abuzz with passengers eating and the usual commotion.

Then, all of a sudden, a young lady sitting across the aisle from me started to scream. She screamed "There is something wrong with the plane!" over and over again. Not two minutes later the captain announced that there was a fire indication in the cargo area and we would be emergency landing in 5 minutes.

It was like watching myself in a movie. First of all, how did this lady know something was wrong? There was no way, not even the stewardesses knew anything was wrong.

The plane suddenly became very quiet only for the occasional sob.

My heart lurched out of my chest and I seriously could not believe this was happening to me. I immediately looked at my kids sitting on either side. They were watching a movie, oblivious thank God, to what was going on.

I had a sudden urge to reach out and hug someone. I wanted someone to hold onto especially since I could not see what was going on outside of the window, we were in the middle aisle. I could feel us dropping a little faster than normal and my ears were popping.

I looked around at the other passengers, strangers were holding onto one another while others really kept a calm face, like it was just any other landing.

But we didn't know anything, we only knew that as a precaution we were landing in Shannon, Ireland. To be honest, I would have preferred not knowing anything at all. My stomach was in knots and I couldn't breathe. I listened to the lady in front of me soothe her seat mate. I suddenly reached out and grabbed her too through the in between of the seats. I just needed her comfort, I was alone. I never felt so alone in my life. Sure I had my two kids beside me, but I wasn't about to share my fear with them. If their short lives were to end I wanted them to be happy watching a funny movie, not in the terror I was experiencing.

In those minutes, I thought about two things: I first thought about how stupid I have been in life worrying about really superficial, small things and my second thought was how I never had a chance to really follow my dream to be a writer. I know, maybe out sounds a bit selfish that I wasn't thinking about all the wonderful things in my life, like my two sweet kids sitting next to me. And looking back I think it was too painful to think about them at that point. They had their entire life to live and in just a few minutes it could have ended for them. The thought of it even now makes me cry.

I didn't think about anyone in particular, I just wanted human contact. I didn't make any promises to myself that if I am still alive I will live better or any of that cliche stuff. To be honest, I was just thinking about if it would hurt, so I frantically dumped our food trays into a plastic bag and put up our tray tables quickly. I thought maybe by some chance it could possibly increase our chances of survival. I didn't want to die in a tray full of gluten free bread and salad. Crazy thought but true.

I wanted to jump up and run out of the plane. I didn't want to sit there strapped in a seat belt waiting for my death. I wanted to do something and I couldn't. I had no control and I felt like I had lost my freedom of not knowing my fate.

I wasn't able to pray or confess my sins or anything like that. And up until this point, I wasn't afraid of dying and my soul moving onto another place. But I think the thought of dying from dropping out of the air in a metal capsule jammed packed with other people frightened me. And knowing that when we crash, it could potentially not be a quick death. It was like they say it was like  "watching a train wreck" except it was a plane and I was in it!

And then we landed. It was a rough landing, you could tell we were coming in fast and heavy and we stopped so abruptly that my daughter hit her head on the seat in front of her. The electricity went off in the plane and it immediately became warm. The fire trucks were waiting when we landed and I guess they did their thing because soon the pilot came on to say that everything was ok and no fire was found. Except, he wasn't being totally honest because I was later told there was a small fire.

We were towed to the gate, our tires were too hot and our brakes burned up. We were told to wait in the airport to see what was happening next and that was when we found out we would be spending the night in Ireland.

People were coming off the plane taking photos, FaceTiming loved ones and lots of crying.
People were upset. People were analysing and processing what had happened. I found myself talking to a stranger travelling by himself about our experience. He told me about his wife and daughter back home and how much he missed them. We said goodbye with a long hug and tears, no longer strangers.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep that night and ended up staying the weekend in Ireland since I refused to get back on the same plane.  The Delta desk attendant said to me "Well they won't fly1q the plane unless it is completely safe." I quickly replied, "That was what they said in Amsterdam and look what happened." So free weekend in Ireland for us.

And when I got on a new plane to finally travel to the US, a tear was shed for every bump and twist our  plane took on that six hour journey. I couldn't even eat the entire flight. My belly was in complete knots and all I could think about was that moment. That moment when my heart skipped a beat and I thought we were going down. That moment will live with me forever.

It has only been a few days and the shock has worn off, and now fear has set in. Somehow I have to get myself and two small kids back to Europe in four weeks. Maybe by then I can think about the lessons I learned in those 15minutes I thought we were crashing. Or maybe I can think about how statstically this could possibly not happen again. Or maybe we take a ship, either way, I have to somehow find strength so my kids will never know the terror I experienced.


  1. Only one thing to say: BIG HUG

  2. Cricky. That sounds scary as hell. I've never experienced anything quite like that (Apart form very bad turbulence that had one kid throwing up) but in the last few years I have found myself being put off more and more by the idea of flying.

    1. Yeah I am def not a fan of flying anymore. I somehow made it back on Monday, but I was on the edge of my seat for the 7 hour flight. I heard horror stories from flights trying to land during the storm in NL last week which really make me not ever want to fly again. Looks like I will be taking a cargo ship back to the US next summer!


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