Friday, July 23, 2010

Blogfest of Death- Six Days Late and A Dollar Short

 Flight 187 from London to Washington started out as any other.  It had been a long time since I had taken a plane.  And it had been years since I visited my family in the United States.  The small flight from Paris to London had gone smoothly.  My husband and I had drawn straws as to who would take our youngest daughter Matilda on their laps.  
He lost.
My son Henry was almost six years old and much better behaved than his two year old sister.  He was so excited as we boarded that airplane. He loved everything that could fly; birds, bees, planes, kites… It fascinated him. I once caught him sitting atop our second story window, arms stretched out wide and his favorite used and stained blanky tied around his shoulders like a cape. I remember him saying dramatically : “Mother. I am ready to fly and take on my destiny!”
 Thankfully I caught him before he leapt out the window to his death. The window has since been bared and I burned our copy of Superman that afternoon.
We took our seats at the very front of the airplane. We always try to get those seats. You’ve got just a few centimeters of leg room more than the others and you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping the person in front of you with your folded up knees when you take a nap.
The take off went smoothly. It’s always my favorite part. There’s something so awe inspiring at leaving the ground far beneath you. My son and I looked out from the window seat while my poor husband tried to keep Matilda from clawing his face off so she could look out too.
Hours passed and darkness fell. The pretty stewardess asked if anyone would like anything else before handing out polar blankets and small pillows and tucking us in like loving den mothers. The lights in the airplane dimmed and some romantic comedy popped up on the big screen for those that didn’t feel like napping.
Unfortunately my two children definitely didn’t feel like napping and a romantic comedy just wasn’t going to do it for them.
I was about to take out their favorite books from my traveling bag when the plane lurched to its side and we heard a loud ‘thump’. Everyone perked up and sat up a bit straighter in their chairs, casting worried glances around. My husband and I even smiled at each other knowingly as Henry’s eyes grew wide. “It’s just turbulence.” I told him. He unbuckled his seatbelt and crawled into my lap where I buckled my seatbelt around him and hugged him close.
But then it happened again. The plane seemed to fall several feet at once and the lights dimmed. Another lurch to the opposite side. Another loud thump.
People began to gasp and murmur. The seatbelt light came on and the stewardess’s rushed to the front of the plane and strapped themselves in dutifully.
The captain’s voice came on over the loud speaker in a muffled crispy sort of way “Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the Captain speaking. As you can imagine we are experiencing some turbulence. We require that everyone remain in their seats with their seatbelts fastened. We will be…”
And then everything went black. There were no small carpet lights leading the way down the alleys. No exit signs. Nothing. The plane was pitched into total darkness.
“Oh my God, We’re Falling!” someone screamed.
I felt my husband’s hand clutch mine. “Mommy what’s happening?” I heard Henry’s voice and felt his body stiffen. For once my baby Matilda was sound asleep in my husband’s arms. She didn’t make a sound. “I don’t kn..” I started but I couldn’t finish. The air in the plane began to depressurize and we began to fall. My stomach lurched up into my throat and it made speaking near impossible. Yet many of the people around us screamed without cease. My son clutched me with all his force and buried his head in my chest. I began to pray silently. “Dear God, …Please exist! Please help us to stay together, Please!!”
I squeezed my husband’s hand. And then I began to yell with all my force.
“Andy!! Andy! You listen to me!” I screamed. “You hold on to Matilda!!” My nails must have been biting into his skin but he didn’t respond. “You hold on to Matilda!” I repeated. “And you hold on to me!!”
My other hand clutched around my son. “Henry!! Can you hear me!?” I felt him nod into my chest. “Baby, don’t be afraid!...Something’s going to happen...."  I swallowed against the pain in my chest and throat. 
"...We’re going to die, baby. But it’s going to be o.k.! Mommy and Daddy are going to stay with you, do you hear me??!!” He nodded once more but I felt his little fingers cling around my back. “You just hold on to Mommy! I’ve got you! And I’ve got Daddy and Matilda! You just stay with me! Andy stay with me! We’ve got to stay together!” I screamed, panicked.
We held each other like that for a long time, quiet in our own thoughts as the plane went down. People around us screamed. Random objects flew around the cabin and my ears hurt so badly. I felt like I was going to faint and vomit all at once and my son could have been suffocating from the way I was clutching him to me.  And the only thought running through my head is ‘We have to stay together’. I was too shocked to cry. All I could do was repeat this thought through my head over and over again.
The cabin door swung open briefly. I could hear the pilot’s calls and imagine him trying different buttons and knobs, trying to get our plane to miraculously wake up and bring us to safety. But I could also see the massive front windows and there was no mistaking the body of water that was mere moments away from enveloping us. At this point, no one was screaming anymore. Those that had been before probably ran out of air or fainted. Besides the sound of rushing air and flying objects hitting their targets, everything was silent.
And then we hit. I felt a brief ‘pop’ and a pain. 

The pain was everywhere.
And it occurred to me in the briefest of moments that the closest I could come to describing death was giving birth. Both were terrifying. And there was pain. So much pain that you wondered how one could endure it and still live. And then you have to face your fear and get the hard part over with. You give birth. You die.
In either case, when it’s done, nothing will ever be the same. And you are usually left with something beautiful, a sense of a miracle.
In this case, after the pain came darkness. Nothingness. A black void. Slowly but surely the ability to ‘think’ came back to me. And it occurred to me that I couldn’t feel my child in my arms. I couldn’t ‘feel’ anything. The ability to feel that comes with owning a body doesn’t really exist in the state I am now. I couldn’t see anything. Not the plane or the crash, or other people. There was nothing but darkness everywhere.
And that is how I have stayed since it happened. Just my own thoughts attached to nothing, seeing nothing. For a while I didn’t remember who I was and it occurred to me that I was not simply Caroline Adams anymore. Before I was even born, I had been someone else. Something else. It was like fitting into an old skin and then realizing that it had been on you all along. Memories began to come back to me. They say that your life flashes before your eyes before you die. But I can attest that this happens some time after the fact.
I've remained this way for countless hours and from the moment I was able to recollect myself, my life, and what happened to me- I have felt the need to replay it over and over. To remind myself. To never forget.
A light is flickering in the distance and my whole being rises to attention. The darkness is finally being breached. As the light falls upon me I realize that my consciousness is growing outwards. I am no longer just unattached thoughts, I am a being. I have extremities, like I did in life. But it’s different. Here I am but energy. And emotion. Oh God. The light is so beautiful. And as it falls and lifts away the darkness I realize that attached to my extremities are other beings beside me. Henry. Andy. Matilda. We are still clutching to each other as we did in life. Like me, their bodies no longer exist but we recognize each other immediately and the emotion is overwhelming. The last strands of fear of the unknown fall away and are replaced with love and thankfulness. Overwhelming joy and love engulf us along with that heavenly light and I know, finally, that I didn’t lie to my little boy when I told him everything was going to be o.k.


Unknown said...

Great post, I can really see the terror of the scene. You have described things wonderfully.

Slamdunk said...

Excellent. I was glued to the screen with the tension that you created.

Aubrie said...

Wow, what a powerful scene and very interesting to read! I didn't expect it to end that way. Excellent!

Old Kitty said...

I loved the build up to the final terrifying scene and then the sudden surreal peacefulness after.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, thank you!

take care

Unknown said...

Wow,wow,wow... I could feel all the emotion that was possible in this... it was amazing and I felt like I was in those seats experiencing that darkness.

Well done! Honestly I wish there had been more!

Matthew MacNish said...

Holy crap Katie. That was terrible. Not as in terrible writing, the writing was damn good, terrible as in that I was right there (I'm terrified of flying) and the emotion was so visceral that I teared up a little here at work (thanks a lot BTW).

Thank god you wrote a beautiful, inspiring and hopeful ending so I wasn't left as an empty husk for the rest of the day.

Cute title about the flight number as well. Do they used terms like 187 and Five-Oh and stuff in Europe?

Creepy Query Girl said...

thanks guys! I wrote this last year when I was feeling a little squeemish about taking my family overseas. It really helped evacuate all my fears believe it or not!

Unknown said...

Very emotional. It starts out really terrifying, but you made the death, in the end, more sweet than bitter. Thanks for sharing! :)

Meredith said...

Wow, this was riveting! I really did feel like I was sitting in that seat holding onto my family for dear life. And the ending is so beautiful!

WritingNut said...

oh my goodness, what a story! It brought tears to my eyes, and I was holding my breath all the way until end.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Awesome job with this one! It sucked me right in and held on to me the entire way through.

Tamara Narayan said...

I'm not hip with the Blogfest thing so I started reading this thinking, "Oh wow, I didn't know you were planning on traveling." Then I thought, "Ha, you're right, air travel with three-and-under is a major drag." Then I thought, "Wait, I'm scared, but she's blogging, so it must have turned out all right, right?" By the end I was almost shaking and, yes, I'm crying. Good Lord, you can write, my friend. Thank God this was fiction. I need some tea, and to go hug my babies.

Nicole L Rivera said...

I'm going to ditto Tamara's post and add WOW ... my heart is still racing.


Can you say tension!?!?!


DL Hammons said...

Geez!!! I mean....Geez!!!! That was definitely a notch above. Great contribution.

Lindsay said...

Wow, that was awesome. You had me transfixed!

Erin Kane Spock said...

And I'm crying. The parent trying to comfort the child. Just stay together. Really intense and moving.

And I'm never getting on a plane again. :)

Unknown said...


That was sad and scary - make that terrifying. And yet, a stranglely comforting ending.

I'm kind of glad you're late with this, if you'd posted it on the 18th and I'd read it then I would have had to catch a flight right after... *shudder*

Thank you for taking part in my blogfest, I hope you had fun writing. And reading all the wonderful entries everyone posted.


Julie Musil said...

What tension! Oh my gosh, great job.

February Grace said...

Wow, that was SO intense!!! AHHH!!!

Geez I am so glad I didn't read that right before my last flight.

Solid turbulance from beginning to end and a long time in a holding pattern too. One of the worst flights ever (the aborted takeoff that one time was way worse though...)

Since I was on that bad recent flight alone, I didn't feel worried. If my kid had been there, I'd have worried.

Like Sunday. When she called to say her flight home was delayed. Due to engine work on the plane.

Then she got on the plane...

I think I about hugged the stuffing out of her when she appeared at baggage claim.


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