An emergency landing reminded me what really matters in life
By: #impossibleisnothing (Spain)
Many moons ago, around 1998, we were crossing Pakistan from South to North in a Fokker (one of those old time propeller airplanes) flown by PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). The flight was 2 hours long, and it seemed manageable. Pakistan is very large and varied, with both desert and mountains.
As we flew above the Thar Desert, all the screens on the plane started blinking. An imam prayed in arabic. The pilot said something on the speakers that created a panic on the airplane. At that moment, a few people had panic attacks.
There was a mechanical problem. We were going to experience an emergency landing. Right there, on a road, in the middle of the desert.
Of course, we all were overwhelmed with terror. Lorenzo, one of the guys on the trip, whispered “I don´t want to die” over and over again. And as the seconds passed, the feeling that this could be the end was palpable in the atmosphere. Fernando, who was a psychiatrist, among other things, yelled at him, “Loren, look me in the eye.” I will never forget this. He then said with a deep and calm voice, knowing that he had a very serious illness, “today is not my day to go.” The peace he exuded was infinite. We all calmed down and got into an emergency landing position. The airplane was deathly silent. We were all conscious of the seriousness of the situation.
Propeller airplanes are small (there were 60 of us on the flight), are manageable, and they glide. Their weight and their aerodynamic qualities allow them to do maneuvers that would be impossible on a large commercial aircraft. I would add that until this moment, PIA had never had an known airplane accident.
As we descended little by little, the plane glided and drifted, and during these seemingly eternal minutes, a lot of things came to mind. I was going through a very difficult time personally and the opportunity to take this trip had revived my excitement to do things. To think that everything could end in this moment shifted my perspective instantly and changed my mental state immediately. When one is in a situation like this, what is truly important comes to mind. You don´t remember what is insignificant. You do feel resentment about what you have not had a chance to do and feel that you never will do. Light turns to black and the sadness in this moment is huge.
The airplane kept descending, and it was finally time to touch the ground. It landed. It crashed, there were people wounded, there was drama and screaming, and I could hear crying. It was as if a huge tank crushed the top of the airplane, both physically and emotionally. There was a great sense of emptiness.
But I was safe. I have vague memories of this whole scenario, probably due to the impact of the crash, and many of us suffered head injuries, but were in one piece. Not everyone on the plane was ok, but our group was fine.
Joy reappeared, and we all breathed deeply. There was some nervous joking around, as well as some tears. The shock of being alive.
It´s good be reminded of this. We have to make the most of every second.