Monday, June 07, 2010

Nothing Like Ending Vacation With an Emergency Landing

I was going to write all about of week in Florida, but our zoo adventures and elephant encounter and lake tales and gator sightings have been trumped by an emergency landing. Anyone who knows me knows that I have recently become a white knuckle flyer. I used to be the kind that didn’t like turbulence, but tolerated the rest. Now, well, pretty much start to finish is one giant stress event unless I take prescription meds to calm me. And, no, flying with the girls doesn’t make it easier, as some people said. (Yes, Jenni, I’m talking to you!) What can I say? I am not sure why this happened, this giant fear. My therapist has theories, I have a few, but that all doesn’t matter. Bottom line: I don’t like flying and I especially don’t like emergency landings.

It a rather large nutshell, it happened like this: Nicole and the girls were sitting in three seats and I was across the aisle, alone. We took off, and of course I think about how most crashes happen in the first two minutes of flight and the last two minutes. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So the first few minutes, critical for the plane and also my well being. I tried to keep calm as the little TV in front of me flickered in and out of reception. I usually counter this stress by squeezing the life out of Nicole’s hand across the aisle. I also rely heavily on the numbing effects of a little pill. Xanax, atavan, ambien, whatever. Nicole’s job is to dole out my pill before we board, and today of all days, she packed the pills in checked luggage so for the first time in, oh, six years, I was flying med-less. Yes, I know it may be unusual that Nicole I in control of the pill, but it is a dynamic that makes me feel better.

Take off was fine, but about 15 seconds after take off, lots of vibration and a weird noise started happening. A noise I never heard before. I asked Nicole is that was normal and she tried to play it off that it was the wing flaps. It wasn’t. So a few more minutes of LOTS of noise and no announcements. Then a man with a laptop walks importantly up to the cockpit and goes in. This of course set off the rest of my panic alarms. Are they goggling in there? “Plane weird news vibration fix” and search?

Then an attendant gets on with this not so helpful message: “Just so you know we are returning to Orlando.” What the eff??? That’s it. Nothing else. By this point I eschewed air safety rules and regs and jumped out of my seat and bounced across the aisle into the three seats where Nicole and girls sat. Then the pilot gets on: The landing gear is stuck. Lucky for us, it is in the down position, so we are returning to Orlando. We circled for a ridiculous amount of time and the prepared for what the pilot called “most likely a normal landing.”

Needless to say, I cried. A lot. Kept repeating things like “I want to land now. I want to land now.” I prayed. I searched my memories for plane crashes with shared characteristics. I tried to reason with myself. There were lots of people on board with Jesus tee shirts on. Certainly they have enough God love stored up to keep the plane safe. I wondered if the landing gear out for so long and circling for an hour compromised the strength of the gear. Nicole was my human xanax. She kept me relatively calm as I cried on her shoulder. She said we could rent a car and drive up 95 instead of getting on a new flight. She took care of the girls while I fell apart a little.

And then, the ground slowly got closer and we landed, amid a full parade of emergency vehicles. No bumps, no crash, no compromised wheel hubs. I was so grateful to be there. And I got on the next flight. My reasoning was simple statistics: What are the chances of being on two flights in a row with issues? If you know the answer and it isn’t good, don’t tell me. I am not sure how this will affect my next flying experience. I guess time will tell. I am grateful that the landing gear was stuck down, I can say that much. I realize the other way could have had a very different ending (though one that still ends in life). But this emergency landing, this was a stressful event for me.

I have a ton of pictures but many of them are un-postable, as Avery is going through a clothing optional stage. She has decided that skinny dipping is better than wearing a bathing suit and that being naked, in general, rocks. Anyone else have kids that go through a clothing optional stage? Does it end? So pictured above are some of the wild animals we encountered, including my favorite bird with attitude, the grackle. And a profile shot of Avery, just to give an idea of what I am dealing with. Meanwhile, I am shocked that I have three-year-olds. I have a feeling this is going to be a year of many changes. This is going to be a post-a-day kinda week.


K J and the kids said...

I am SO sorry. and I'm so proud of you for getting back on that horse in the sky (so to speak :)

I'm not sure if it's a stage.
I will glance out my back window to find all 3 of my older kids naked and jumping on the trampoline. My boys have taken rides on their 4-wheelers down the street with just their underwear on.
My babies won't keep their diapers on.
Yeah. I'm hoping it's just a stage.

Rebecca said...

1. Maybe it is a 3-year-old thing? My son Rhett will be 3 on wednesday and he loooooves going au naturel.

2. I'm sorry about the emergency landing, and you were wise (& brave!) to get on the next flight. Technically, the likelihoods of two planes having problems are independent, but in reality they are small enough that the chance of your next plane having any issues is teeny weeny.

3. I have become a white-knuckle flyer, also. I think it has something to do with being a mom, maybe? More conscious of our own mortality now that we have little ones who need us? At least, 3 years ago is around when my fear of flying began. I used to be so cavalier. No more.

Calliope said...

I know I was supposed to be looking at your white knuckles- but I always love your manicures!

soooooo glad that everything was ultimately safe and ok. You guys should actually fly lots and lots this summer, because, seriously, what are the odds of anything happening again???

Susanica said...

Wow. Amazing story and even more amazing photos. Wow. -Monica