As you can probably guess by the title, I almost died on a plane once. It's surprising really as there are more people that die in a car than on a plane. I've definitely heard the argument, "Well, there are more cars on the road than planes in the sky". My response: there are also more people on an airplane than in any car I know, so shut it! All of this to say that planes are relatively safe. You should feel comforted in that huge metal contraption. I've always felt safe on a plane, like I was being guided by the hands of God, because what human can really hold up hundreds of people as they fly seamlessly through the sky like that? Planes are really just God's work, I'm telling you. And if you don't believe that, then read on to how He still guided me on that infamous day I almost died while doing what I love most, flying.
On the Infamous Day:
It's officially my second time back to Sudan on an Ethiopian Airlines flight. At the time, I was infatuated with everyone thinking I was Habesha (a word referring to Ethiopians and Eritrians or Semitic speaking indigenous). I loved whipping my little thirteen year old braids back and forth like "Sudanese habiba (Arabic word for dear), not Habesha". What a feisty little kid, am I right? Needless to say, I was living it up. Adopting identities for an 8 hour flight and assisting the flight-attendants with the beverage cart (You can read up on that story here) were seriously the least of my mother's worries...we almost died remember?
As I boarded the plane, everything was playing out as it should be. The greeter checked our tickets at the gate, the stewardess helped us find our seats, the captain came on the intercom to introduce himself. It was a regular flight. Passengers fought for overhead luggage space, small kids were crying because it was a packed flight, and all I could worry about was when they would turn the in-flight entertainment system on. Shortly after, the flight attendants began their safety instructions. This was before all of those new in-flight safety videos were a "thing". (Watch my favorite one here) As the most mundane aspect of the flight experience, I'm glad these airlines switched things up.
What can't the airlines change? The whole takeoff and landing drill. I guess it's kind of important. Gearing up for takeoff, my mother promptly adjusted her seat and clenched my hand. You would think the lady was dying already. She hates takeoffs, and it was always a big scene when the plane was either ascending or descending. There were always multiple prayers read, eyes shut tightly with my poor hand clenched within hers. She's so adorable in that way. I bore the pain and released what was left of my hand as soon as we were at a cruising altitude.
Freeing up my limb, I was able to begin my binge-watching. Any and all movies I had missed or were deemed "inappropriate" by my mother were now fare game. I remember staring at that small airplane screen for hours. Trying to hold back sleep to get to the ending of one of the "Bad Boys" films was the ultimate struggle. I guess you could say I was "hip" to binge watching before it became a thing. *Brushes shoulders off * I don't remember much about my dream while aboard that plane because well...I was living the dream, I was flying. The next thing I remember is hearing a voice over the intercom instructing everyone to stay calm and sit back down in their seats. As I cleared the crusties from my eyes, I saw a man with a video camera pointing towards the window. Looking for comfort in my mothers eyes, I saw nothing but fear. Actually, her eyes were closed, and she was holding on to us for dear life. Still, fear. That poor woman.
Not even five minutes later, I heard a loud pop and saw a black figurine dash past the window. A tire had just popped off the plane. Sort of an important feature for takeoff and landing. The ground seemed much closer than before, people were out of their seats, flight attendants were attempting to create order from the chaos, but failing terribly. The woman in the row in front of us held on to her baby, and I'm pretty sure almost everyone on that plane believed it was our time. I remember thinking that if I'm going to die, I sure am glad I'm on this plane, surrounded by my family and in the process of doing what I love most. Thinking back, I can't help but glow about my optimism. Seriously, what thirteen year old thinks like that? Feisty and optimistic? Little me was the best!
Bracing for the landing, my brothers and I held on tight to my mom. "I love you", I thought to myself. After bumps, turbulence and undoubtedly some screams along with the multiple memorized prayers, I slowly opened my eyes. Bewildered, I looked outside to find that although we had lived, we were only feet away from the main entrance hall to the airport in Sudan. We completely missed the tarmac. Stepping out into that hot Sudan sun gave me an unimaginable feeling. I felt...alive, and I was! I was in God's hands and he knew my time wasn't up yet. Our time wasn't up yet. I still had a lot more flying to do...
Why I Still Fly:
Most people look at me like I'm crazy after they hear this story. I'm constantly bombarded with questions like "How do you still get on planes?" "And so frequently?" "You must not have learned from that first time, huh?" The thing is my fellow wanderers, I love planes. I love flying. I love travel and adventure and experiences...ohhhh how I love experiences. While I was scared out of my mind, I found solace in knowing that what was going to happen to me was meant for me, and what missed me was never for me in the first place. Just because I had a bad experience on a plane once, I refused to allow that experience to determine my flight experiences for the rest of my life. Albeit, flying for the first time after I almost died, I was a bit apprehensive, this fear eased over time, as all wounds do. But wounds, they heal, and fear, it can be subdued. All it takes is time, patience and a little bit of courage. So while I might be "crazy" for hopping back on plane after plane, this type of crazy is the type I will wholeheartedly embody, because it allots room for growth and room for healing. You can't heal if you focus solely on the wound. Wear your battle scars proudly loves!
I want to hear about YOUR travel experiences! What's your favorite in-flight safety video? Have you ever almost died? What's your craziest plane experience? Let me know in the comments below!