Thursday, January 15, 2009

Life and Death

Today around 3pm a bird flew into an airplane engine shortly after it left la guardia airport. The pilot told the people on the plane that they should brace themselves: the plane was going to crash. Less than 20 seconds later, the plane hit the water. Because of the quick response from Ferry Boats, ambulances, firemen and police officers, not a single person died. There were 155 people on the plane, including 2 infant children. Even in the freezing waters of the Husdon, the response was fast enough to get everyone out of the water and to safety. The pilot was truly the hero, from choosing to land in a place where help would be readily accessible, to executing what is literally a miracle landing. It makes me cry to think of the terror that those people must've experienced knowing that they were going to crash. One young man said that he was clutching hands with the strangers next to him, and all he heard around him were people praying for their lives. Can you imaging what those 15 seconds must've been like? EVERYONE LIVED. EVERYONE SURVIVED TO LIVE MORE OF THEIR LIVES. What an impact I think it would make to face death like that and walk away still given the opportunity to stay here. I think it would forever change a person's outlook.

When I was 15 years old my mom was driving all my siblings and me up to Utah for the summer. While driving through Colorado we ran into a terrible storm. Though conditions were quickly deteriorating, my mom decided that we should keep going and try to outrun the storm. After about a half hour, the small hail balls were starting to get larger and larger until they were nearly reaching the size of tennis balls, and were hitting our van with a lot of impact. Fearing that these oversized hail balls might break our windows or damage the van, my mom decided to follow suit with several other cars on the freeway, and seek shelter under an overpass. We watched in horror as the sky blackened, the rain worsened, and the winds increased. Our panic began to rise collectively as the van started to quiver like a leaf in the wind. It felt like we were going to be picked up and carelessly tossed by the storm. Suddenly all the windows of our van imploded and smashed to bits. We started screaming. My mom cried out for us to hide under the seats and under the sleeping bags and blankets that were laying about the van. I remember that my sister Karen, who was a toddler at the time, ended up with me under the back seat. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and struggling to get out from under the sleeping bag I was using to protect us. I was doing my best to keep her under the covers to protect her, but she was fighting me to get out. She didn't understand what was going on, and was terrified. Eventually, I let her out from under the sleeping bag, thinking that maybe if she looked out of the broken windows and saw the storm, she would understand. As we both came out of the sleeping bag and looked outside, we saw a huge black funnel cloud passing less than a few miles away. It was wreaking havoc on everything in its path, and it was SO CLOSE to us. At that moment I realized that I was going to die. I pulled Karen back under the covers and I just sat in that moment. I said to myself, "so this is what it feels like to die" In that moment I also remember thinking of all the things I had hoped I would get to do in my life, and how none of that would happen now. I always thought I would live a long life, and I accepted in that moment that I had been wrong. I was going to die at 15. This was my new reality, my new truth.

Somehow, the winds slowed down eventually. I was still alive. No one in my family was injured. Shortly, rescue teams came to see if we were hurt. I remember they gave us blankets. We ended up driving into town with all of our windows (including the windshield) broken. All the hotels were full, so we stayed in the lobby of a hotel along with what seemed like hundreds of other people who had been in the tornado. I remember that night vividly. The dark room we were in, all the people there, the hard floor, the thin worn carpet.

I think this experience profoundly affected my life. Facing death changes you.. or to put it a different way, Tai from Clueless says, "when you're about to die, suddenly things become really clear." It's true. I will forever be grateful to still be here. And I think I will forever feel so much for people like those in the plane crash today. I think I maybe understand a little of what it feels like to be saved.

1 comment:

becca schwartz said...

wow, clark! i was blown away as i read that. what alife-altering experience! i think one of the most amazing things about life is how much we FEEL. that's one thing i love about your blog, and about you as a person, is that you FEEL things, have a gift for interpreting those feelings and you care so much about how others feel.