When I was a child my father travelled a great deal.
It stands to reason when you’re trying to engage with the rest of the business world from New Zealand. As anyone who has ever taken that uber-long-haul flight will attest, New Zealand really is a long way away from the rest of the world.
It was even more isolated before the wonders of the Internet and my Dad like many others of his generation would spend weeks on planes flying to the gnomes in Switzerland or the financiers in New York or the Chilean foresters.
I also grew up with air travel, first flying to Australia to meet my grand-parents as a six week old baby and then commuting from New Zealand to Fiji in the clapped out rackety old DC8s and DC10s. I remember the flashes of lightning that would eerily light the cabin as we pushed through another tropical storm and the inevitability of encountering turbulence the moment your dinner is served. Most of all I remember the black olives Air New Zealand used to serve alongside their neat little portions of food on the plastic tray. Those olives were the most exotic food I’d ever seen and not-eaten.
Back then, I used to worry more when my father was on a flight, than when I was on board. When I was on board I could see that everything was OK. I knew that the plastic tray and the olives would arrive, there could be a few bumpy bits and that was all part of the adventure. I knew that when I was tired I would be allowed to stretch out across the empty row of seats and sleep. Unbuckled.
But when my father was flying and I was sitting at home in the unknown I would worry. Despite not being a church kid – I didn’t ‘do’ Sunday School and didn’t attend church until my teens – I would add Dad into my prayers each night.
And even though the radio news was full of reports of hijacking and terrorism (these were the days of Entebbe after all) my Dad always came home, safe and sound.
When I spread my wings and started travelling as a young adult I was pretty relaxed about flying. I even once caught a wet-leased Asian airline where the crew were pissed and we all partied to Bali. I can only assume the pilot hadn’t partaken. I caught great airlines and not-so-great airlines. I had great flights and not-so-great flights. I landed in Salt Lake City in white-out and in Singapore in the tail end of a tropical storm, with not so much as a tremble.
All that changed when I had my first baby.
For the past twenty years every time I’ve taken a flight I’ve considered – soberly – what would happen to my children if I didn’t make it home. It’s worse when I fly without them. I notice every bump in the road, every dodgy looking passenger and every judder and wheeze of the engines. For a travel blogger I am unusually nervous about flying.
It’s the Vixen mother in me. I need to know that they will be safe should anything happen to me.
My heart lurched when I first heard the news about the Malaysian flight MH370 that literally dropped off the radar. I know enough to know that flights don’t just disappear.
And now two days later with still no news, I am gutted for those who are coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones. I can’t imagine their distress. It must be for them the realisation of their worst fears. Though the expat grapevine I’m hearing stories of a husband who decided to not take that flight at the last minute, and even a father who left instructions for his wedding ring and watch to go to his sons, should he not return.
We know that flying is still the ‘safest form of travel’. We know that driving, riding a bike, or a bus, or taking a train is to court more danger than boarding a plane, even in these terror-in-the-skies days.
We know this logically. Empirically. But emotionally…?
I was going to blog an entirely different post this morning; one full of our recent adventures as a family in good ole peaceful New Zealand, but when I came to sit down at the computer I couldn’t.
New Zealand may be peaceful and air travel may be safe but NZ is still a long way away from the rest of the world and we still need to rely on aircraft to bridge that distance. We are closer than ever to the ever present danger that exists in our troubled world. We might like to think we live in Hobbiton, but in reality we do not.
Airplanes may well be safe, but what about the people on board? It’s the people we need to worry about.
200 souls don’t just disappear. Airplanes don’t just drop out of the sky. It’s people working as the hand of evil that make planes drop like a stone. Whether it was a terror plan or a maintenance failure, it still bears the distinguishable sign of malevolence. My family isn’t travelling today, so my prayers are for the families of those who boarded their routine flight in KL on Saturday and who suddenly, without warning, just literally dropped out of the sky.
Link: Malaysia Airlines lost