Turbulence

FEBRUARY, 1970

I was sitting next to a priest on a United Airlines plane, bound for Kansas City and rocking so hard its metal skeleton clattered. The Man of God was no comfort to me. After the pilot’s stammering announcement that we’d be making an emergency landing, he’d slapped his palms together in a prayer position, jammed his eyes shut and began muttering Hail Mary’s to himself, over and over. I noticed beads of sweat were dripping down his collar, so I looked out the window, squinting through the blur of clouds that were pouring down snow. Suddenly, I saw the wing moving. It looked more like a piece of a model airplane than a jumbo jet and it scared the hell out of me. My stomach lurched as I realized something I’d thought was quite sturdy was actually fragile and could easily be broken, taking me with it. Little did I know this revelation would take on an even scarier form within the next few days. As the pilot steered the plane downward, aiming toward a landing spot in a snow-covered cornfield, I felt scared and vulnerable. Which is exactly how I would feel for the next five days.

 

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