The sky belongs to the stars...
This quote from Fight Club has always made me laugh. I’ve often wondered, “is this true?” It’s definitely an interesting take on why they are on planes versus the fact that if your plane has a change in cabin pressure that the air at that high of an altitude becomes thin and oxygen levels are very low, so one would need assistance by way of an oxygen mask. My chuckle and thought became a reality yesterday on a flight as I took deep breaths from my oxygen mask. I felt my state of consciousness changing and…well, let’s start at the beginning.
Yesterday morning I was preparing to fly out of Birmingham, Alabama to Indianapolis, Indiana with a connection in Detroit, Michigan. I boarded the plane and was looking forward to finally getting home to relax after a three-week back-to-back travel schedule. As I sat on the plane I remembered a quote from one of my favorite movies, La Bamba, based on the true story of Ritchie Valens. He and fellow musicians Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper die in a plane crash. Right before they take off Buddy Holly says to Ritchie, “Hey Ritchie, relax man. Everything is cool. Besides, the sky belongs to the stars, right?” Afterward, the plane takes off and in the next scene the news hits radio stations of the plane crash. For whatever reason, I posted a version of that quote on social media right before take-off. I got nervous and said, “God, please help us that we will be ok. I didn’t think about the quote. Thank you.”
I felt good. I put my headphones on and listened to The Beatles. “Yesterday” began to play and I started to fall asleep. As I slipped into a slumber, something I never do, I was awakened by the sound of a pop. I opened my eyes to see my oxygen mask dangling in front of me. I looked around and everyone seemed confused. Even the flight attendants gave no direction. I quickly took a picture as I already had my phone out from skipping through songs. This had to be some sort of malfunction because no one was saying anything. It couldn’t be true. I turned to my side to see if anyone else was moving and the plane began to shake hard. A girl holding her infant son yelled out, “GOD NO!” I turned back towards the flight attendants and they scrambled to put away their supplies. They were just starting the beverage service when this happened. I could feel the plane descending very fast. The shaking of the plane continued.
“PUT YOUR MASKS ON NOW,” yelled one of the flight attendants. The pilot came over the intercom and I could tell in the tone of his voice that he was shaken and concerned. “WE WILL BE DIVERTING TO HUNTSVILLE. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON, PLEASE PREPARE FOR LANDING. I started to put mine on and in the chaos, I heard, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.” So, imagine for a moment, witnessing everyone around you scramble and struggle to put on their mask while this song is playing. Almost as if theme music of impending doom. I struggled myself and realized I was having problems because my headphones were still on. I pulled them off and secured my mask and began to breathe. Having removed my headphones, I heard the young mother who was holding her baby sing, “Yes Jesus loves me. Oh, yes Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so.”
She sang it loud and she repeated it. I knew she was singing it to her infant son who was sleeping during this incident but as loud as she was singing it I felt as though she was singing for everyone on the plane. It was eerie. As I listened I noticed that several people had their phones out and were trying to send messages. I tried myself but couldn’t get through on the cell network. I tried the WiFi and connected but lost it as we were going down fast. The plane continued to shake and I held onto the arm rest. I thought about my family, I thought about my friends, I felt content but it was at that moment that Tyler Durden popped into my head. I hadn’t noticed that I was breathing heavily, and I felt my state of consciousness changing. This is where we came in. Tyler was right, I had accepted my fate.
I looked over at the guy across from me and noticed his shade was up. I could see out and the ground was approaching fast. I continued to pray, I continued to listen as the mom sang and I was scared but ready. I had sent out a message for prayers and they were answered. Thank you! Just before we landed we were told that we could remove our masks. They couldn’t tell us what was going on and a few seconds later we landed in Huntsville, Alabama. Not too far from where we had taken off from. Fire trucks greeted us and while in the air there was a faint smell of something burning. I still don’t know what it was but an email from the airline explained the issue as a malfunction with the pressurization system shortly after take-off.
This will forever be engrained in my memory. “Yesterday” and “Jesus loves me” will be a trigger. It was frightening, it was eye opening and, in the end, I found a quote that really says how I feel after this crazy incident. It’s funny how it takes something like this to really put life into perspective.