I remember it was my first flight of my flight attendant career. I had just landed in Vegas, opened the door, and the gate agent told me that Michael Jackson had died. Every year, I remember that first flight, that news, that
moment. When significant world events happen, as humans, we relate those events to where we were, and what we were doing. I was still in high school when The World Trade Towers were attacked, but I remember, and it affected. I think it would have affected much more and much differently if I had been a flight attendant at the time, or thought that I would be someday.
Many ask me, when tragic events happen in the aviation world, how I feel. Am I scared to go to work? Do I become worried? Is it harder? I don’t think it’s any harder to understand than someone not connected so closely to the airline industry, but it feels closer, like maybe it could happen to me. I never think that way because flying is such a daily, normal, expected part of my life. The flights take off, and land safely. Always. At least that’s what my mind believes.
Within the last month, three significant and tragic events in commercial aviation have occurred that make me conscious that there is another option than safe take-offs and landings. It is heartbreaking, and shocking to hear about these events. Hard to believe, and almost cruel the frequency in commercial airliners not reaching their destinations safely. I am not scared due to the fact that I am frequently flying, and that this will happen to me, but fearful as I view it as a snapshot to the status of our world. A world that I want to believe is good, and safe, and happy, and really, sometimes- often times, it is none of those things. Unfortunately, sometimes we are helpless pawns lying in the path of disaster, experiencing the wake and fallout of terrible events.
I love my job as an international flight attendant, and I still believe air travel is safe. Maybe this world isn’t, maybe people are not, and maybe I am closer to a news report documenting that I am missing or dead, but I will never know that. I will never think that today is my last day, or next week will be my last breath. I arrive at my airplane office, conduct my pre-flight checks as I have been trained, run through emergency procedures during take- ￼off, and serve food and beverages with a smile. I look forward to another morning at my favorite cafe, and enjoying an evening out at a favorite restaurant with my best friends. These are the experiences in life that I realize I too often take for granted. This realization hits hard like I have crash-landed when I hear that there is a mother who will never be coming home to her family because the flight she was on was taken out of the sky mercilessly. That the boyfriend may not see his lover again because he is now missing. That that young flight attendant will never work another flight because the one that she was just on is in pieces, scattered across miles of earth.
These are the moments when words are useless, and answers are impossible to find. Answers of why that plane, why this moment, why now? Why, why, why??? I don’t know. I just don’t know. My heart goes out to colleagues, and airline crew around the world as we mourn the tragedies of late. I am so sorry for your loss. Our loss. These losses. It leaves me at a loss for anything comforting to say, because really, I’m not sure if there is anything we can say.
And to you who have breathed your last, when I board my flights, I will think of you. I will celebrate your life. I will contemplate your bravery. I promise to be thankful for my life, and live: Not afraid, not timid, but with
gratefulness in my heart, peace in my soul, and joy in my spirit. Because all of that was viciously stolen from you. So I will take back the life that you were not allowed to finish, and live the minutes and hours and days and years better, because that, I’m sure is what you would want.
If I am ever found missing or dead, promise me that YOU will live more than alive for me, for those years that were taken from my life. Please travel for me. Don’t be afraid. Enjoy gelato in Italy, Sangria in Spain, and bike rides in Southern California. Don’t mourn me, but celebrate that I was doing what I loved, and I was simply happy to be gifted the time that I had.
Today is a gift that hundreds of people in the world no longer have.
You do. Take it. Use it. Cherish it.