I imagine many of you as well as I have been wrapped up with the news reports that have been dribbling out about the crash of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 in the Alps this week. Unfortunately in our 24/7 news cycle it is sometimes easier to find “answers” based in innuendo rather than in hard facts. What we do know is this, the captain left the cockpit to do something, the first officer refuses to unlock the door for the captain to reenter, the first officer apparently sets the auto pilot to 100 feet sending the plane in into a normal but disastrous descent finally crashing it into a mountain at full speed killing all on board including himself 8 minutes later. What has come out since those facts seems to be speculation which may be true or may be not true about the health of the first officer. I think this is predicated on a honest desire to know the “why” of the first officer’s murderous action. However rumors start when unverified speculation occurs. There are so many questions about this horrific deed that are left frustratingly unanswered. When desperately searching for the “whys” takes over, the focus shifts from the 150 people who lost their lives and the feelings of the loved ones and friends left behind to us trying to comprehend the first officer’s actions. It is as if finding out that the first officer was somehow covering up a mental or visual problem from his company will give us the needed satisfactory answer so we can move on with our lives. Oh, that’s why he did it. OK I’m glad I know. That makes sense. So what’s for dinner? Meanwhile 150 people are dead. They won’t being going home for dinner. The reality of this mass murder of so many people leaves us shaken, even afraid to fly.
What I am thinking about today is the last eight minutes of life of everyone on board. Apparently it wasn’t until the very last part of the descent that passengers realized what was actually happening. By then it was way too late to do anything. Except for the fear in their final moments, during the last 8 minutes were the passengers enjoying some coffee and snacks? Were they wondering why they were landing so soon? Were the teenagers excited about getting home after their language exchange in Spain, full of stories waiting to be told? Were the operatic singers basking in the glow of their last performance in Barcelona? Were the babies uncomfortable because of the cabin pressure on their little ears? How can we connect with them and others except by knowing their stories? There are 150 stories that need to be told that will put a human face on this tragedy. Although important, we cannot have the story of Flight 4U9525 be solely a hunt for facts surrounding the motives of the first officer’s inexplicable murderous actions in those last 8 minutes. The stories of the passengers are important as well. Theirs are the stories that bind us together as human beings, the great among us and the anonymous among us. Their lives help to remind us that we are bolted together as a species regardless of race or nationality. Each story needs to be told because each story is valuable as each one of their lives was valuable.
In time, most of the story of the first officer will be told, and that will be it for many. Maybe the revelations in the German tabloids are right or maybe they’re wrong. Time will tell.
With Easter only a week off and it’s promise of new life, I can only hope that the families and friends of those who died last Tuesday find some peace in their own good time. I pray for the recovery crew on the ground searching for human remains. I pray that they are able to realize that what they are doing is nobel, heroic, sacred and utterly human. For the rest of us wherever we are, we need to try and find out the stories of the passengers of Flight 4U9525. We need to try and see the connections we may have with them in our similar stories. Eight minutes doesn’t seem like a long time before death. Maybe I need to live my life as if I only had 8 minutes left.
Holy Week is upon us.
and so it goes…