“Should I call my loved ones now in case this plane doesn’t make it either. Oh, is that too soon?”
Yes, I overheard this conversation between a passenger trying to make light of an exceptionally delicate situation with a working crew member on my commute to work over the weekend. I simply had no words, but I bit my lip as I was in my uniform. I could not believe someone would make light of such a tragedy. Despite the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines #370 happening half a world away, it has become very much a daily part of my life.
Since the disappearance of Malaysia Air’s Flight #370, I have not written. I have tried and much to my chagrin, my list of pending drafts has grown since the beginning of the month. Subconsciously, I believe it has been out of respect for the missing crew and passengers of that Boeing 777. Every time I turn on the news, walk through the concourse, or overhear passing conversations, it has been related to the disappearance of MH370, including off-color team naming during a trivia night I recently attended. My sincerest apologies for the lack of new content, but my heart has been with the families of the crew and passengers of that flight.
While I was living in Japan, I visited Malaysia with my friend, Yuriko. We flew from Osaka to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines, and I was finally able to meet an online friend of mine, Alex, after knowing her for several years. What I remember of flying on Malaysia Airlines, was their crew was incredibly professional and I had an exceptional in-flight experience. In KL, I had a fantastic week of exploring the sights, sounds, and flavors of Malaysia with two great friends who helped me through a rough time in my life. I look back on my visit to Malaysia with nothing but genuine happiness, and it pains me to know that circumstances prevented others from enjoying the same pleasure and comfort.
This evening, I stopped to have a beer on my return to the hotel from food shopping. While my mini-carton of Cherry Garcia melted, I had a heart to heart with a lovely widower from Boston. We started out by talking about the Red Sox training camp, and how my plans to go with the crew to the stadium to catch a game were thwarted by the hotel manager. We talked about our travels throughout the world, how I learned Japanese, and how people sacrifice to keep our country safe. Then we progressed into talking about the Boston Marathon Bombing, his three daughters (two of which had run Boston on several occasions), 9/11 and his time working for the TSA prior to retirement. It’s funny how people’s paths cross in the least likely of places. We talked about college sports while watching Kentucky squeak along in their match up with Wichita State, and enjoyed our second round of beers (turns out there was a two-for-one special I didn’t know about).
When the planes crashed on 9/11, he had friends who were passengers on the American Airlines flight. I had friends who were in the NYC as it happened. My father was working at Miami International Airport when it went into lock down along with the other east coast airports as the Towers fell and the Pentagon was hit. I remember remember visiting Ground Zero a year later and trying to touch the countless patches on the outside of the Fire House just opposite the street. There we were, two complete strangers, reliving the events from well over a decade ago, but the lingering emotions still triggered tears. How many families, friends, and acquaintances of MH370 will have similar conversations in the future? Will they eventually gain closure? Is the further fact finding provided by the media actually helping them gain perspective or is it muddying their emotions further?
“I don’t need to tell you this, but fly safe,” he said with a big smile and a hearty hand shake. Mr. Boston Basketball Shirt, my sincerest apologies for not asking your name. I hope you enjoyed another pint with Garrett the Bartender after I left, and I hope your daughters cave in and move to Florida. I hope that if I score another long layover, I’ll happen upon you again at that barbecue joint and we can share more stories. By then, I should have visited Boston like planned.
Earlier today, I attempted reading current the issue of People Magazine, highlighting several of the passengers’ stories while laying out by the pool. I fought my tears for a very short time before I shoved the magazine back into my tote bag. Seeing names, photos, and reading their personal stories made everything painfully real. My mind spiraled out of control, wondering what would be written about me had I been on that plane or if I encountered a similar fate. I have given it plenty of thought since March 8, but only after my conversation tonight, did I decide to sit down and commit my thoughts to digital paper.
Let it be said, that I loved. I love my family and friends dearly. I love my job and vast multitude of adventures it provides me. I loved every job I had and every skill I learned. I love food, booze, traveling and life. I love animals despite my allergies. I love and embrace the nerd community as I proudly wave my geek card. I love being born a Yankee, but raised in the South. I love most the people I have met throughout my life, regardless of the roles they have played throughout my development as person. I love every accident, misadventure, and unexpected outcome as it has shaped who I am. If I don’t say it often enough or loud enough, it isn’t because I don’t want to. I do. Know it in your heart because that is where I am. I loved so much and it shows no sign of stopping.
Yes, I have no children, and currently, I am not in a relationship. These are choices I have made, and they are ones I do not regret. They are things I desire in life and if I play my cards right, maybe they will be opportunities I have in the future. Currently, I am the proud “aunt” of multiple children and pets, and the outgoing and sometimes overbearing older/younger “sister” to exceptionally amazing friends and my actual sister. I am the undeniably supportive friend of absolutely incredible people from all walks of life, and the sincerely dedicated coworker always seeking to work smarter not harder. I am the loving daughter two fantastic parents who have shaped the adult I have become. I have chosen my career as my means of discovering who I am and who I want to be. I have maintained a five-to-seven year rule with regard to locations I have resided in and professions I have selected, and every single choice has further ingrained my values and expectations in life. This is who I am, and I am not the least bit ashamed.
Never doubt my dedication to my job. My passengers are my family and precious cargo. I was raised in an airline family, and I always remember the outstanding crew members who took care of their passengers, did their jobs, and did it well. My top priority is the safety of my passengers and my crew. I respect those I call my colleagues regardless of department: from the flight crew, gate agents and mechanics to the caterers and cabin services. Every last person matters in my line of work, and every single individual contributes to the success or failure of a flight. We work together to provide our passengers with the best service possible, and first and fore most, that is safety.
My flight attendant training was the most intense seven weeks of my life. We pulled twelve to fourteen hour days Monday through Saturday. I fought through examinations to maintain well above a 90% test average with a small class of some of the most amazing people, many of which English was their secondary language. I had two of the best instructional facilitators in the entire company, and they have prepared me for everything and anything I may encounter on the ground and in the air. Understand that when I crossed the stage and received my first set of wings, I graduated a better person with some of the best people of my graduate year and within my company. Every time I suit up in my uniform, I smile with pride because I represent one of the best carriers in the world, and I hope that when I retire, I still remember my very first day on the line. I see a long, healthy and happy career before me, and this was the best choice I made in my thirties (so far).
It is my hope that when people look back on MH370, they believe the crew did everything possible to make that plane land safely. There are so many unanswered questions and the news media speculation seems to only fan the flames. Yes, there is the possibility of “XYZ” being the truth behind the flight’s disappearance, but like my own carrier, I am confident the flight crew of Malaysia Airlines 370 did everything in their power to prevent the situation and provide their passengers with safe passage to their final destination. No one may read the daydreams and thoughts of this lone fly gal, but please, believe in the inherent good within people and the skills of the crew. Do not be so quick the suspect foul play, but also do not rule it out either.
Should I be part of the crew of a flight that goes awry take heart and believe that I will do everything in my power to provide the best possible outcome. I will work with my exceptionally capable crew, as those I fly with, I also entrust my life. I will protect your families and friends, and sacrifice all I have to keep them safe. If I am on a plane that goes down, know that I did everything in my power to stop it from turning out the way it did. Believe in my abilities as a professional and my integrity. I did my job. My crew did their job, and I have no regrets. Look for that silver lining in the clouds, and I know that’s where I’ll be.
It may be morbid to contemplate what others might say or do in one’s absence, but circumstances like MH370 put into glaring perspective potential risks of my job. Many often cannot comprehend the phrase “other duties as necessary” which in my line of work can mean: police officer, fire fighter, grief counselor, babysitter, first responder, relationship counselor, cheerleader, and everything else in between. I sometimes wonder what others may think or say should it be my turn, but for the time being, I’ll just go with “she’s one heck of a gal.”