My (now) ex-husband, daughter and I were on our way to San Francisco to attend a three-day convention with the Met Life sales force. He had won some money at a casino a few months prior to the convention, so we decided to tack on another seven days to our trip with the hopes of seeing some of California. It was the first time my daughter had flown, and she was fine, but my ex had a fear of flying.
We boarded our plane out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which was about a half hour from our condo in Coral Springs. We were scheduled to have a three-hour layover in Dallas-Fort Worth, then we would grab another six-hour flight to San Francisco.
Introducing a cabin movie, promise of food coming!
It was 1993 and Cassandra, my miracle baby was 6 at the time. When we got on the plane, we discovered that we had two ticket seats next to each other, and one was up two rows, in the center aisle. We decided that I would sit with Cassandra, and David would sit in the single seat. Then one of the passengers noticed our dilemma and agreed to switch seats so that we could sit as a family.
We were very excited to be on our way. It may have been the first time we flew as a family, I can’t recall. Our flight time was scheduled for roughly three hours. We nestled back into our seats and got comfortable and ready for takeoff. Our takeoff was normal, but I noticed my husband’s clenched fists. He was nervous and afraid.
I had a book and I was reading it to my daughter, when the flight attendant put in a movie and notified us that she would be serving us food, shortly. No sooner had she finished speaking and walked up the aisle, the movie screen faltered for a second, and then it went blank and dark. To make matters worse, the lights in the cabin went out, the air-conditioning system stopped and it got deathly quiet. We were 35,000 feet in the air and the plan had lost all power.
Losing an Engine
A stewardess from the front of the plane yelled out, “I think we lost an engine”, and she ran from the front to the back of the plane, in the aisle to my left, looking out over the wing out the window.
When she said ‘we lost an engine’, I wasn’t sure if that meant the thing fell off the plane, or if it seized, but I knew either situation couldn’t be good. Then the pilot announced that we must stay seated and fasten our seat belts. He told us we had lost an engine and he was trying to fire up the plane again and we would need to prepare for a crash landing.
I had a distinct desire to press the re-wind switch, but there was no switch in life, to be pushed. Instead, we were told to stay in our seats, make sure our buckles were securely fastened.
While one stewardess was physically running up and down the aisle to speak with the captain about the engine situation and looking out the window at the wing, we were told that the 777 was designed to run on 4 engines and that we had nothing to worry about. Some passengers did not believe that, and started crying, and praying out loud.
Within about a minute, the pilot was able to jump the other engines, and we re-gained momentum from the glide, although we went through a scary bit of turbulence for a few seconds.
What’s important in life?
The pilot then came on the loudspeaker and announced that we would be making an emergency landing in Tampa, as a pre-cautionary measure. There was a cheer from the crowd, and then a morbid silence.
The pilot told us we needed to get into the crash position and follow the stewardesses’ instructions. He said he would do everything in his power to make sure we had a safe emergency landing.”
While the stewardess was telling us how to brace ourselves, and make sure that everything was properly stowed, my ex-husband decided that he wanted his original seat back. He said that if there was a crash, he wanted to be sure they could ID him, and he was afraid if he was in the wrong seat, they would somehow misclassify him.
I let him go, shaking my head and the other passenger looked at me strangely, as he came back at my ex-husband’s instance, to sit next to me. I didn’t have the heart to tell my ex that if we crashed, the seat belt would not help. As we descended, people began to pray out loud again. There were 12 monks traveling together, and they were seated near us. I am not a believer in God, but at the time, it seemed like there was a force in the air, that was larger than any human spirit, and the whole situation was surreal!
Seeing my life flash before my eyes (again)
I thought about my life as it flashed before my eyes. Up to that point, I had done what I could and lived my life to the best of my ability. This wasn’t the first time I had been threatened with death but I had no personal regrets and I was glad. The only thing that I was sad about was that my daughter’s life might be in jeopardy. I kissed her, told her I loved her and we put our heads between our legs, and as we hit the ground, I rubbed her back and told her not to be afraid.
We were fortunate, and although the runway was covered with foam when we came in, there were no other problems with the aircraft, it was a remarkably uneventful landing.
There are heroes in everyday life, and on this day, I was very grateful that we had several amongst us. We had a pilot and crew who kept calm, managed to keep the airplane flying and keep us safe. The airplane had performed as designed. I thanked him and the rest of the crew, as I left the craft. I was profoundly grateful for another day of living.