A Good Day to Die


14 September 2005






A business trip, Dayton Ohio, (5) 12-hour work days but now it’s Friday and all settled into company paid first class window seat and ready to get home. Cockpit door is open and I can see in and watch the captain (how come captain and not colonel or general or something?) and the co-pilot going through their pre-flight checklist. Another routine flight for them and me as I have flown so many times, even being at 30,000 feet and looking down on the clouds does not stir me like it once did.


Finally a stewardess closes the aircraft door and latches it into place and disappears to the rear of the plane and I lay my head back and close my eyes and think of finally being home again and the weekend. After a while, I feel the plane beginning to be moved away from the gate and the jet engines beginning to wind up and then we are on a taxi way headed for a runway. 


The plane comes to a stop at the “hold short” line and we wait for the tower to clear us for takeoff and we do not have to wait long and I open my eyes and watch the captain slowly turn the plane to the right and onto the runway and once perfectly aligned with the centerline of the runaway, he begins applying power to both engines and we begin rolling.  We have not gotten very far and certainly not near to take-off speed when all of a sudden a stewardess comes running up from the back and bangs on the cockpit door right in front of me and my coworker in the seat next to me. The cockpit door opens and suddenly I and everyone else in the cabin of the plane is lunged forward as the captain must be mashing the brakes of the plane for all they are worth and the engines have been put into reverse thrust to help slow us down. 


Then, we are off the runaway and again on a taxiway and headed back to the terminal. Did the stewardess see something, smell something wrong with the plane, some sort of problem? Not a word from the cockpit as the plane pulls back up to the gate we just left minutes before. Would they really take a plane off the runway to allow some late passenger to board? Hardly think so but maybe some big government guy or something. But then the stewardess opens the aircraft door and in walks 2 men in business suits with earphones in their right ear and are obviously the FBI or from some other government agency. Then the captain appears at the cockpit door and one look at this face and you can tell he is real mighty upset and I suspect he is, having to abort a takeoff like that.


Then the 2 suits and the stewardess disappear back behind us down the isle and when I turn and look around, I see them standing beside some young woman talking with her near the very tail end of the plane. What? 


The captain starts back the isle, I guess to help or put his 2 cents into whatever is going on but apparently thinks better of it and returns to pacing around the small area right in front of me. He is upset and big time.


Then up past us come the suits escorting this young woman and 2 small children and I can hear her saying, “I am ok now, I want to stay on the plane. I do not want to get off.” But the suits are having nothing of it. “Lady, you don’t start yelling, I have to get off, I have to get off, as the plane is going down the runway! No, you are coming with us and we are going to have a little talk,” the older of the 2 government types says. And then the suits and the woman and the kids are gone but the captain is still pacing and taking his hat off and wiping his brow. Still not a word over the intercom from him or anyone else as to what has just happened.


Finally, the captain has one more conversation with the stewardess, which I cannot hear and then back into the cockpit he goes and the stewardess pulls the airplane door shut, latches it into place and again disappears back down the isle of the airplane.


My coworker and I do not say a word but we know everyone on the plane, which saw what happened, is asking the same question. “Did this woman who had, just had, to get off the plane, see something, feel something about our flight that no one else did? Is the destination of our plane somewhere else other than Washington, DC? Are pilots spooked when something like this happens and maybe make just a tiny mistake and we never make it home?


I am uneasy and I imagine everyone on the plane is also but no one else on the plane stands up and says they want to get off and I wonder if just one person did, would a lot of other passengers have join in and I wonder if none of us did because we might be considered foolish or superstitious? And what if we have crash? On the way down, we will all be saying to ourselves, “You idiot. You had your chance, just like that lady and her kids.”


The engines fire up and I close my eyes once again but I can feel my shirt is wet with sweat. 


This time I watch the whole procedure of backing the plane away from the gate and the captain heading the plane down the taxi way and I look at the wing I can see and look for loose bolts or jet fuel leaking but see none of that and so just close my eyes and lay my head back.


Then as I feel the plane turn onto the runaway for takeoff once again and the engines begin to wind up to full throttle, I am over come with this calmness, this peace and this thought crosses my mind. “If I die today, it is a good day to die.” What? “If I die today, it is a good day to die.”


The plane reaches terminal velocity and we are airborne and then dip slightly as we loose the ground effect under our wings but then we are pushing upward into the sky and suddenly as if the plane suddenly got hundreds of pounds lighter from the shedding of passenger anxiety, we lurched even more steeply into the sky and we were on our way. On our way home.


“If I die today, it is a good day to die.” So hard to describe how I felt but it was peaceful, calm, quiet, ok, weird. I wonder if you have ever felt this way? I have not had this feeling, thoughts again since then but wonder if I will be able to go to that place and feel that way when my time actually comes. I sure hope and pray so.


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