It was Sunday morning. I began as I did every Sunday, preparing for church. It was my husband who broke the news to me. There had been a terrible plane crash at Bluegrass Field in Lexington, KY, only minutes from our home. Grimly he added that survivors were unlikely. My heart immediately began to ache for those who would begin their Sunday with unimaginable grief.
As the day unfolded we attempted to pick through the barrage of information. One thing was ominously speculated on by all. Did the pilot take the plane down the wrong runway? And if he did, how could that have happened? He was an experienced pilot that had flown from Lexington before. It seemed inconceivable that he would make such an obvious mistake.
When tragedy strikes the reason why is immediately sought by all. In order for our brains to absorb suffering and pain we must know the root of the problem. We must have someone or something to blame. In the grieving process the most difficult thing to accept is not ever knowing how or why? Our basic instinct prompts us to search for explanations that may never be found or if found could be terribly inaccurate.
The lone survivor of the crash remains fighting for his life. He is also the man believed to be at the “wheel” when the plane went down. The air traffic controller had his back to the runaway having no inkling the plane was headed down a runway entirely too small for successful lift off. It was the sound of the crash that alerted him to the error. There was a pilot, co-pilot and a passenger that was a pilot in the jump seat. Three men sitting in the cockpit and none of them noticed they were on the wrong runway. Despite receiving a memo from the FAA stating two controllers must be in the tower, on Sunday August, 27, there was only one in the Bluegrass Field tower. Mistakes made by several combined to bring down Comair flight 5191 with 49 souls on board.
What should we do with this information? Should grieving families lash out at those connected to anyone in the tower or cockpit? Lord, I pray it not be so. It is critical for the healing process that we realize these people, from the tower to the cockpit, are victims too. They may be victims of themselves but that doesn’t lessen the pain for those left behind. And what about the air traffic controller who must surely have said to himself a million times, “If I’d only turned around.”? Will he ever fully recover from this?
Four people; three in the cockpit and one in the tower made choices for forty-six others who had no inkling that anything was amiss. Truth is, none of us can lay blame on those four individuals. It’s hypocritical to say we wouldn’t have done the same thing. How many times a day do we take something for granted? How many duties do we perform everyday and never “see it through”? I once returned home to find my garage door open. When I left, I hit the close button but didn’t wait to make sure it completely closed. I assumed it did because in the four years I’ve lived here it’s always closed. Someone could have easily entered my home. If stealing wasn’t enough, they could’ve waited for my return and carried out unspeakable acts on my children and me. And It all would’ve taken place because I was careless with a task I perform everyday. Granted my lapse in judgment didn’t cost the lives of 48 others but it could’ve cost the lives of my children and that is just as valuable to me.
We walk down the street never imagining the man behind us is plotting to kill. We assume we’re safe in our unlocked cars until we’re carjacked. We open the door to a stranger crying for help only to find out it was a ploy to gain entry into our home. Talking to our children in the busy parking lot of a fast food restaurant we take no notice of an approaching car until it has run us down. In a rush to get to work we drop our children at the bus stop and for the first time ever don’t stay with them. It’s the screeching of tires that tells us we’ve made a fatal mistake. It’s inconceivable that people could be so filled with hatred they fly plane loads of innocent people into buildings all in the name of religion. We don’t realize what’s possible until it’s too late.
Mistakes are made on jobs everyday. When a pilot, co-pilot or air traffic controller make a mistake it can be deadly. Those careers allow no room for error which is in direct contradiction of human nature. We will make mistakes. We are not perfect. What we do impacts the world around us regardless of whether it’s done in negligence or with great care.
The lives of those “responsible”, for lack of any other word, will be picked apart and examined closely. What exactly were these individuals doing in the hours prior to the crash. Personal events will become national knowledge. Innocent acts that took place while off duty can be twisted and misconstrued to appear as playing a part in this dreadful crash. In all the finger pointing let’s all remember one thing. The families of those under the microscope are as devastated by their loss as everyone else. They have the additional burden of processing the fact that the one they so dearly ache for may have played a part in their demise.
Then there are the living victims locked away in a self-imposed prison of what if. What if there had been two controllers in the tower? What if the pilot at the “wheel” had tried to brake instead of fly? What if I’d watched the plane’s taxi to the runway? The answerless questions swirl in the minds of those still breathing, yet remain a victim none-the less. Who do you want to be? The one on the plane or the one left behind wondering what could’ve be done differently?
What we can do now is honor those lives lost and not let it be in vain. We must all take notice that we’re spokes in a very large wheel. Everything is relative. All the small tasks that we perform everyday are only a piece in a puzzle larger than ourselves. The ripples of the pot we stir will always reach the outer shores. Now that we know this information let’s pay tribute to those lives lost on flight 5191. One way to do that is to stand-up look around and see everything we’ve only been looking at. If the souls aboard flight 5191 could tell us anything I believe it their message would simply be; the things we take for granted are the things that matter most. May God be with all associated with flight 5191.