Ruminations on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Posted on
Mar 12, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about Malaysia Airlines flight 370 which went missing days ago. I suppose everyone has. It’s strange and sad, and right now it’s an open-ended mystery, which I think must be excruciating for the family members of the 239 people who were on board.

I honestly can’t imagine anything worse that not knowing.

Sunset on our flight coming back from Palm Springs.

I am not a nervous flyer. It’s hard to be with Rand. He constantly spouts out facts (or, at least, I assume they are facts. I’ve never bothered to check, because he says them with such confidence. And perhaps that’s for the best) about how flying is far safer than driving. About the infinitesimal odds of being in a plane accident. About how there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Most of the time, I believe him. I dread turbulence not because I’m afraid we’ll fall out of the sky, but rather because I will inevitably start feeling sick. My concerns are not when I fly with him, or even when I fly alone. But when Rand takes a flight without me, I get nervous. I feel like facing the issue of my own mortality is way easier than facing the issue of Rand’s.

And so, when he leaves without me, I think about the million things that could go wrong (even though they rarely do). I check news sites when he’s up in the air, to make sure that nothing catastrophic has happened. If I don’t hear from him when I’m supposed to, it is always because of something innocuous. His flight was delayed before takeoff, or after, or, for some reason, his text just didn’t go through. But there is always a split second of worry. A few fleeting seconds where I wonder if he’s okay.

I can’t imagine those seconds stretching into days, and knowing that, short of a miracle, the outcome will not be a happy one.

Since flight 370, Rand has been on three flights, each without me. And despite those few seconds of concern, I know that he’ll come back, safe and sound. It’s happened so often, I accept it as a fact. As almost inevitable.

I accept it as such a given that if something catastrophic did happen, I know I wouldn’t really be able to grasp it. I’d hold on to the belief that he was okay, until I had factual information otherwise. I know, because I do it with matters that don’t pertain to him – I genuinely believe in the best possible outcome, no matter how unlikely, until I have hard evidence to the contrary.

I think that’s why this missing flight has occupied so much of my heart and mind these last few days. Perhaps it’s naivete or perhaps it’s optimism. But I still hold out a crazy hope that all of those missing people are absolutely fine. Which is just ludicrous.

This was the conversation I had with Rand last night, as we were getting ready for bed:

“Do you think those people on that flight are dead?”

“They almost certainly are.”

“But … what if they aren’t?”

“That seems really, highly unlikely.”

“So there’s no chance they’re alive?”

At this point in the conversation, Rand sighed, put his toothbrush down, and looked at me.

“It’s not that there’s no chance,” he said, “but … they’re probably gone, baby.”

“I know,” I replied. I did.

But I still need proof, before I can actually abandon all hope. I know that’s stupid. I realize how illogical it is. Because honestly, I think that having hope, when there is absolutely zero reason to have any, sets yourself up for even greater heartache.

And that is, really, one of the saddest things I can think of.

Leave a Comment

  • Erika

    This is how I felt when John Kennedy Jr.’s plane went missing. As illogical as it was, I was convinced he, his wife & her sister were still alive, just on some other island, waiting for help. It seems so impossible that a gigantic airplane with so many people on it could just disappear. I too ache for their loved ones who are just waiting, waiting to find out what happened, for closure.

  • Jay

    The 239 and their families have been in my thoughts constantly over the last few days and like you, there’s the shred of hope there that they might be waiting it out on some tropical island like an episode of Lost. I certainly have a logical ‘Rand’ on one shoulder that speaks louder but I can’t help but hold out a little hope for the other side.

  • I’m the same way. I always worry about people when they’re flying; I just can’t help it!

  • Yes. I’m holding on to that small sliver until finality says otherwise. I’m checking the news about this whole thing like a creep. So strange and sad.

  • Wanderingone

    My sister moved to New York City on September 4th, 2001 for a job. One week later driving to work I heard the news about the Twin Towers collapsing. I had no idea where her office was in relation to the Towers. I didn’t know if she was alive, injured, or dead. I rushed to work and called my mom, who luckily, was able to tell me that my sister was absolutely fine. I then burst into tears and was comforted by a co-worker.

    All of it happened over a span of 15 minutes but let me tell you that was the most gut wrenching, sickening feeling I’ve ever had. That feeling of not knowing if your family member or friend is ok is horrible, simply no way to describe it. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. Every time I hear a news story about a child being kidnapped, a person gone missing, or in this case, an entire plane load of people missing I think of how I felt that day. I have the greatest sympathy for people going through that horrible feeling. I only had 15 minutes of it but some endure it for days or even years. I don’t know how to bring relief to people going through that atrocious feeling but I hope that they are somehow able to eventually find some peace.

    • SugarMagnolia

      My dad was working in the Pentagon on September 11, and I had about two hours of not knowing if he was okay or not (thankfully, he was uninjured and got out fine). It was absolutely horrible and, like you, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. My heart just breaks for the loved ones of those on the Malaysia Air flight.

      I’m glad your sister was okay.

  • I hope they find out soon for the families sake. I’ve flown twice since then on air india (which is a government airline i don’t really trust) and my boyfriend flies back to Goa tomorrow … strangely I’m not worried. I just feel like even though it DOES happen, it’s so surreal. I’m holding out hope that they’ve landed somewhere, or even if it were an act of terrorism, that they come forward and say they have hostages or something like that- kind of like the hijacking in Uganda years ago!

  • I think that the worst is not knowing — even if you almost certainly know. I remember the painful MIA situation during the Vietnam War. Human beings seem to be hard wired to need closure.

    My moment of terror occurred in 1991. I was walking down the hall in my office building and I heard a radio (this is before smart phones) saying, “A plane has crashed into a Lower Merion elementary school.” My son was then a first grade student at a Lower Merion elementary school. Until I got to my office and heard more news, I felt beyond ill. Then I heard it was one of the other township elementary schools and I felt just plain ill. Our babysitter called, very upset, “Did you hear that a plane crashed into Lower Merion High School?” I told her “No, it was the Merion School.” She said, “Rachel goes to that school!” Rachel was anther first grader she babysat for who we also knew. She called me back hysterical. She had called Rachel’s house and learned that she was one of two little girls who had been killed out in the school yard at recess. Another little boy was horribly burned, but survived. (A private plane carrying Pennsylvania’s then senator, John Heinz, had a mid-air collision with a helicopter right over the school). I think I had PTSD for awhile after this, but this morphed into a strange acceptance that we really can’t make our lives (or our children’s lives safe). Rachel’s mother had put her smart, loving little girl on a school bus in the best and safest school district in the state that morning —- and then—– So, especially now that our children are launched and independent, I don’t worry about flying anymore. Que sera, sera. (Imagine an accent over the “a” in both seras).

  • We are in Singapore so it is awfully close to this news… yes it is strange and terrible not knowing. And it is very hard to accept that a whole plane just went missing.. as the days pass, it is terrible for the families and loved ones. I think closure in anything, is important.

  • This has been on my mind, too, especially since they’ve widened the search area to include the seas around Penang where I live. I’m in a high-rise condo on the water, and I keep going to my window to look out, as if I will happen to find an intact plane floating by. Or I’ll look out my window in case if I see a life boat, a section of tail, an airplane seat… anything. I feel so badly for all the family and friends of those who are missing, but I am still holding onto hope. This is a flight that so many of my friends have taken on business trips to Beijing. It’s one that we considered when we took our Fall Break trip to China. I’m flying through Kuala Lumpur twice in the next month, and I know that this will be on my brain until we safely touch down.

  • Kate L.

    You’ve described that holdout of hope extremely well – and that’s exactly the way I feel!

  • Jill

    The wife of a colleague (at one of our international offices) was on the flight. I’ve never met her, never even heard the name of the colleague before, but somehow it just brings it all closer to home. What are the odds? How is this even possible? Very scary.

  • Your thoughts aren’t stupid at all!!! This missing airline has consumed many of my thoughts the last few days as well. For obvious reasons and for reasons similiar to yours. Your post made me cry this morning! Thoughts of the family and friends of the missing weighing heavy on my heart. I could have written this post almost word for word, especially the conversation you and Rand had. It sounded exactly l ike my husband and I! Thanks for sharing!

  • I haven’t been as successful as you with putting my thoughts about this tragedy/mystery into words. I didn’t relate to any of the news yet as profoundly as you have, but this really made me think. It must be so excruciating for the families to be in limbo for so long.

  • Rand is right, flying is indeed safe. I sometime have these sorts of thoughts as well but then I found flight tracking websites and could see hundreds of flights at any given time in air. Surely, accidents are very rare. However, it’s different from driving, you might get a chance to survive after a car accident (losing a limb is worse than dying I guess) but in air, you would be gone! but then who can escape death. 🙂

  • Kathi

    Hey have you seen this explanation? Makes a lot of sense.

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