Terror In The Air
Let me ask you something.
If you’d been on board that Southwest flight from New York to Dallas yesterday - the one that lost an engine, had a passenger die after she was sucked through a broken window and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia - how would you have spent what might have been your last minutes alive?
Would you have prayed? Wept? Written a note to your loved ones? Hugged your traveling companion? Looked around to see if anyone needed help?
Or would you have thought that this was the perfect time to go on Facebook and do a live broadcast from inside the aircraft? You know, inviting cyber-voyeurs to watch, perhaps as the plane exploded or crashed?
From the many accounts of Flight 1380 people did all of the above.
One woman said she and her husband prayed, worried that if they died together their daughters would be orphaned. Another man wrote a farewell note to his wife and unborn son.
Others sprang into action, pulling the woman who was being sucked out of the window back into the aircraft, while others struggled - unsuccessfully - to cover the hole. A nurse on board administered CPR to the critically injured woman.
And one guy sat in his seat and broadcast on Facebook live.
As it happens, I’ve also had a scare on a domestic flight. Not nearly as bad as yesterday’s incident. But as bad as I ever care to experience.
Early on the morning of September 16, 2016 I was aboard Delta flight 2557 from Norfolk to Atlanta when it had a fire in the cabin, thanks to a faulty lithium cellphone battery that was smoldering in a seat.
The cabin lights were off so passengers could catch some sleep and we were about 15 minutes out of Norfolk when several passengers noticed "a plume" of smoke.
I was dozing when flight attendants pounded down the aisle. Suddenly we could all smell smoke. There was a commotion around the burning battery in Row 34.
I was in row 27.
Some passengers near the fire were ordered to leave their seats and kneel in the aisle as the flight attendants used a halon extinguisher to put out the flame.
At the time, I was both worried that I might to be incinerated at 35,000 feet and impressed by the flight attendants who took control of the situation with cool professionalism.
(Lithium fires are especially dangerous, I later learned. They burn fast and hot and can be devilishly hard to extinguish.)
Yet, through it all, I took no photos. Even though I was a working journalist at the time. Didn’t give thought to Facebook.
Silly me. Could have been famous. For a day.