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(This is the unsuspecting pelican that flew into the plane’s engine...so unaware of his impending demise)

 

(This is the unsuspecting plane unaware of its impending close encounter with a pesky Pelican)

 I had 3 small children at the time.  The boys were 2 and 3, and my daughter Kellie was 8 months old.  Kellie and I had been visiting my family in Marin County.  

I had been struggling with a fear of flying.  That's another story but I had always loved to fly and a year before had suddenly developed extreme anxiety several days before flying.  I think it had something to do with being a mother.

Kellie and I were flying out of Oakland, California.  Kellie had been sick and was one of those babies that other passengers would have liked to have thrown off the plane.  The plane was packed with drunken passengers from Vegas I would have liked to have thrown off the plane.

They hadn't left whatever they had been doing in Vegas in Vegas.. they brought it with them on the plane.  The sound of the slurred speech of strangers filled the plane and alcohol was the fragrance of the day.

I was sitting on the window seat by one of the engines.  I was practicing my deep breathing techniques to fight the annoying anxiety that was whirling inside me right before takeoff.  My little baby was screaming, crying and writhing around as we were taking off.  An inebriated passenger in front of us turned around and tried to hand me a cough drop.

"Heeeeeeere, giavvvvvvvvvvvvve heeeeer thiiiiis taaaaaaaa giiiiiiiiiit her to shuuuuuuuuuutuuuuuuuuup".

So not helpful.

I ignored him, tried to comfort my daughter and looked out the window as we were taking off.

As we were ascending, suddenly I saw an explosion coming out of one of the engines accompanied by a loud bang.

"DID YOU SEE THAT?  DID YOU HEAR THAT? I exclamated to the woman sitting next to me, the woman who was deep in drunken dialogue with the other plastered passenger next to her.

She leaned over close to my face, too close to my face.  "Ohhhhhh hunnney, I fly alllllllllllllll the time......nuthin's wrong.  Trussssssssst me.

I didn't.

As the plane was decreasing in speed rather than accelerating, I was watching the stewardesses.  I was thinking if they start serving coffee, tea, or me we're good to go.  They weren't.

They were huddled in a circle, one of them going back and forth into the cockpit and out.

I felt sick to my stomach.  The plane was descending and the ground seemed way too close.  I thought to myself, "Shit, this plane is going down.  This is it.  I'm 30 years old and I'm going to die in this frigging plane crash and there's not a damn thing I can do about it."  My daughter continued to scream due to the pressure in her ears.

The passenger in front tried to pass me yet another cough drop.  Idiot.  Didn't he know that we were all about to die?

The cabin started to smell like gasoline.  One couple darted to the front of the plane screaming that they wanted to get off and get off now.  They were herded quickly back to their seats.

The plane began to turn around.  The sloshed and smashed passengers suddenly became silent.

This was back in the day, back in the born again Christian days.  Back in the day when I prayed a lot, went to bible studies, hell, I led the bible studies.  

Later, when safely back in Colorado, my other born again friends asked me, "Oh Mary, were you praying for your husband and your boys...were you praying for their future without you and Kellie?  Were you anticipating meeting our Lord in Heaven?”

What the Hell?

"HELL NO!  I WASN'T THINKING ABOUT THEM.  I WASN'T EVEN THINKING ABOUT KELLIE.  SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON.  I WAS STEAMING MAD.  I DON'T KNOW IF YOU WOULD CALL IT PRAYING, BUT I WAS DEMANDING TO THE MAN ON THE CROSS, 'GET ME ON THE GROUND AND GET ME ON THE GROUND ALIVE BECAUSE I AM JUST TOO DAMN YOUNG TO DIE.  ETERNITY IS A RIDICULOUSLY LONG AMOUNT OF TIME AND I'M IN NO HURRY TO BE ON STREETS PAVED OF GOLD AND SINGING YOUR PRAISES FOREVER AND EVER—I CAN DO THAT LATER, SO GET THIS PLANE ON THE GROUND AND DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!'"

He did.  Praise the Lord.  I should have gotten the clue then that in the long run, I wasn’t going to make a very good born again.

Turns out that a pelican had flown into one of the engines destroying it instantly.

We were actually never in any real danger, although it didn't feel that way at the time.  

I spent the night at my in-laws and the next day got back on the very same plane.  I felt pretty comfortable though.  On the plane were the mechanics who had flown out from Denver the night before to replace the engine.

And oddly enough, this experience helped me feel better about flying.

I love to fly.  Flying is one of the most ridiculously safe ways to travel.  

And hey, you get to see clouds.  I love seeing clouds.  Clouds are the best part of all.

*Note:  For those who suffer anxiety when flying, or even avoid flying because of your fears, the combination of cognitive therapy and medication, and even cognitive therapy alone, are extremely effective in reducing and/or eliminating this fear.



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