Day #2: Are you afraid of (Fl)heights?

I hate to begin this with… It was a dark and stormy night, but there is no other way to describe such a night that was the night of August 11, 1994 any other way. I was stranded in Tennesse or Kentucky or some other damn southern state for hours with my mother due to electrical issues that plagued the plane we were supposed to make it to Pensacola on. I shook my head over and over again saying, “no no no! We shouldn’t get on that plane, if we do we’ll die.” Luckily at the end of seven hours and two McDonalds runs, the airport finally decided to exchange planes. With my anxiety stowed neatly in my carry on, I boarded the twenty passenger plane and we embarked on the final leg of our trip from California.
I was frightened of planes, of turbulence, or not having grounding, but… I didn’t have a decision in this trip, it was my mother’s of course. Like usual we boarded the plane, but this time we were not sitting together. During the course of the seven hour layover my mother had developed an airport love interest named Lawrence. He was a scrawny black man in his mid forties that looked like he would break if asked to pick up a box of old books. He was nice enough though and had the pleasure of sitting next to my mom on this flight.
The flight seemed to take off without a hitch besides the dark and storminess of it. It was around 9pm and the black clouds were illuminated by flashes of light. My anxiety wanted to come out of its bag. “There’s nothing to worry about” both my mother and Lawrence assured me.
“Right” I thought. “How are we going to make it through this storm alive?”
The flight was only an hour and a half, not long and I figured that the most we would have to deal with would be turbulence. As we took off into volcanic ash like clouds (mmhmm, that’s right) the tiny body of the plane felt manic and bobbed up and down. I held onto the seat like an alcoholic holds onto rubbing alcohol when their stash has been emptied.
When we reached cruising altitude, when the pilot usually turns off the fasten seatbelt sign, but didn’t this time, my mom got up to use the bathroom. The attendants warned her to stay put, but she persisted and insisted that it was for the sake of the rest of the people on board that she use the restroom.
When my mom was out of sight, my anxiety would make itself evident and find its way out of any bags I tried to store it in. I knew that my mother visiting the restroom meant the end of us. It seemed that almost immediately as she entered and I could hear the lock from the inside that there was a flash and then everything went dark. The plane went dark, the engines went quiet, and my eyes in the profound darkness momentarily thought we were under water. We were hit by lightening and the plane shut down.
I screamed.
Lawrence from the seat behind me felt for my shoulder to shut down my screams, but there was nothing that could calm me. I heard door from the bathroom open and my mother call my name. Our plane began drifting downward and the sound of engines trying to whir kept going round. I tried to accept that I was about to die. My mother attempted to find our seat in the dark. “Mooooom! moooom!”
I could hear her feeling her way around the seats back to ours and as she neared, flash, but it was not lightening, they had gotten the engines started again and we could see. I was relieved. I had considered that I was going to die, but the engines were back on and I was alive and thought instead perhaps I would just have a heart attack.
We made it to Pensacola and I wanted to kiss the ground. I am no longer afraid of flying, no longer afraid of what could happen in the plane. After that flight I felt like I had been saved because somehow I had.
As I flew yesterday to London and thought to worry over the ash cloud for the sake of worrying, I didn’t. I didn’t because there was no longer a point to worry over something beyond my control. If it were to go down, then that would be what was meant. I am very much about fate/destiny, even when people tell me it’s silly, so I don’t worry about what will happen when I leave the ground. I like to leave the gravity of it all and get away now.
I made it though. The plane landed and I am here. If I had worried there would have been nothing to worry over, so I’m glad I didn’t. Hopefully others will do the same.

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