Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dreams: Taking Flight or Crash Landing - Part 1

I can’t really say what sparked it, but at some point during my childhood I became inexplicably fascinated by airplanes. When teachers would inevitably ask us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up, my answer never seemed to reflect the common threads of the day. Most little girls wanted to be teachers, nurses or mommies. There were always the overachievers as well. Someone always wanted to be a neo natal doctor or a trial lawyer (like on L.A. Law), but I’m pretty sure I was the only girl who wanted to be a fighter pilot. This was a phase I’m certain my teachers and parents assumed I would outgrow by jr. high. Not so the case. I remember one occasion in particular in which an assignment was handed down instructing us to write a letter to someone in the field we were interested in. We were meant to ask them to offer a few tips or pointers; something they wished they’d known when they were younger about the road to success in their particular career. I am still so thankful to my teachers for going along with my dream, never crushing my spirit, when even in the eighth grade I was still pursuing my fighter pilot hope. When it was my turn to give the report, I read the letter I had received from the governor of our state on the requirements needed to receive an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They listened to my report with straight and sober faces. I was convinced and they weren’t going to tell me otherwise. God bless ‘em!

In high school while posters of the likes of Kirk Cameron and Corey Haim shellacked the walls of my friends bedrooms, I puttied up photos of F-14’s and B-1 Bombers in all their glory. By then I had started to realize my dream was not only not going to happen, but I had begun to be distracted by boyfriends and fashion and good old girl friend gossip. My grades suffered, and lets face it, grades are a very important factor when one aspires to the likes of the national Air Force Academy. Still, I wasn’t going to give up my love of powerful planes and the way they ripped through the air with no apologies. Air shows and air bases and all things plane or space still gets my heart pumping today. And I still harbor the last vestiges of my dream. Perhaps one day I’ll learn to fly a small plane. A girl can dream can’t she? But I had no frame of reference for what happened near our home just a few months ago.

It was a lovely morning in July and my husband had just hopped in his pickup to leave our farm. I noticed that he was hesitating at the end of the driveway. He was staring rather strangely down the road. In almost the same moment my 16 yr. old daughter, we’ll call her “N”, was filling a glass at the kitchen sink and said “Mom, is that an airplane in the ditch?” I laughed as is my custom when N speaks nonsense. One adapts these sorts of coping mechanisms when one lives with a teenager who rarely tries to make sense. But when I strode to the nearest window to take a look I was astonished to find that a small single engine airplane really had taken a nose dive none to gently into the ditch very near our home.

I ran outside and hopped into my car just seconds behind Steve who was speeding quickly toward the scene. Steve had already called 911 when I pulled up to the plane, even as two men who had observed the plane flying low and sporadically rushed up to help. A front had begun to move in and the sudden stillness seemed only to add to the spine-chilling feeling of our motley little crew as we gathered near the tail of the plane which had flipped end over end and was now protruding onto the gravel road. After spending a few moments looking at each other in silence, unsure what to do next, the men decided to move the vehicles back and out of the way to make a path for the ambulance and patrolmen who were soon to arrive. As they backed cars and pickups into field driveways and along the edges of the ditches I carefully slid down the embankment to peer inside. What I saw there I hope to be able to forgot sooner than later. It seemed clear by the angles of the bodies that the men had not lived through the impact, but how can one be sure? So I called out to them to tell them that we had sent for help and the paramedics would be arriving soon. I asked them to try to hang in there if they could hear my voice because help was on the way. And I told them I was praying for them. My words were met with ghostly silence. Having become a bit unnerved I scurried back up the side of the ditch, vowing I would not look into the cold, unblinking windows of that plane ever again.

I would like to tell you the rest of my story but I’m sure that’s all any of us have time for today. So I want to welcome you back tomorrow for chapter 2 of Dreams: Taking Flight or Crash Landing. BTW – I’m so glad you’re here! Please blog on by anytime!

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