Arts Flight 83
When I read about those Jet Blue passengers who got to watch their own emergency landing live on in-flight television, I thought it sounded like the scariest thing in the world.
Then, last night, I was flying home from New York to Seattle on Jet Blue flight 83, when what should come on my live in-flight television screen but… Flight 93, A&E’s dramatic recreation of the last hours of one of the hijacked passenger jets on Sept. 11.
“I can’t believe they’re showing this on a plane,” a woman seated in my row said.
I looked around. Everyone else seemed to be sticking with ground-borne dramas (Law & Order, Hardball), but my row was apparently filled with masochists. All of us were watching Flight 93. On Flight 83.
My fear of flying used to be really bad. But one thing that’s helped cure it is getting into situations that are so freakin scary I might as well not be scared. Like that flight from Peurto Rico to Vieques in a small plane with no doors. Or like that aborted landing in the fog in New Delhi — a touchdown, then screaming engines, a quick takeoff, and an announcement from the pilot that he’d overshot the start of the runway, sorry, and would now be trying again. Or, like watching Flight 93 on Flight 83.
I would venture that A&E had no more receptive audience than the people in my row last night. I cried every time someone on the doomed flight made a phone call to a loved one — and as anyone familiar with the “Let’s Roll” story of Flight 93 knows, we’re talking about a lot of calls. Calls to mom, calls to wife, calls to a nice woman at the Verizon Airphone call center. At one point I found myself pouring a bit of bottled water onto my t-shirt so I could use it to clean off my glasses, which had become spotted with dried tear salt, and I thought: Maybe I should shut it off now.
And then I thought: No, this is good for me.
The A&E broadcast of Flight 93 ended with the plane plowing into a field in Pennsylvania. Which I think cured my fear of flying for a good long while. There was the charred hole in the ground, and there I was, somewhere over Montana, having just experienced the terror of a plane crash — and not just any plane crash, but a plane crash preceeded by hijacking, stabbing, wild flying, thousand foot dives, and a desperate attempt by passengers to retake the plane.
If my plane crashes now, I thought, it’ll just be a cheap re-run, with a lot less drama. Thanks, Jet Blue.