Posted by: PD Warrior | July 29, 2007

I was not there, and yet I was…

I left the airshow smiling on Saturday. Despite the low cloud cover that prevented many of the acts from doing their “normal” routine it was still one of the best shows that I have been to – and I have been to a lot of them. Airplanes are my passion. My brother -in-law and I made the drive home in an adrenaline filled bliss, discussing everything we saw for the entire drive home. 

Still excited over the show at 11:30pm when we finally arrived at my in-law’s house, we bounded in the door. My wife had spent the weekend there and was waiting for me to arrive. We bounded in through the front door expecting to hear all kinds of questions  about the show, as we do every year. But the only question that was asked was “did you see the crash? – the pilot died you know…”

No, we didn’t know.

We didn’t even know there was a crash. “They must have started flying again later,” I told my father-in-law. “When we left all the acts had been canceled for the day.” Which was true, but, as I found out later, they were canceled for a much more serious reason than the one I was aware of.

My brother-inlaw and I left our table in the Pavillion Seating area where we had been enjoying a birdseye view of the flying, around 2:20pm. There was to be one final act before the Airforce Thunderbird precision team would make its final decision about doing their routine. The Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform early in the morning, but due to the “low ceiling” created by the clouds they postponed their portion of the show until later, and then later, and then later…  The ceiling was definitely higher than it was when the show began, but I didn’t notice any change from the last postponement so we decided to take another walk around the show and look at more of the aircraft that were on static display.

From the news reports the crash took place around 2:30pm. By that time we were across the tarmac, on the other side of the show, standing inside a “Chinook” helicopter talking to the pilot. There was absolutely no indication that anything was amiss when we stepped out of the copter.

About an hour later we were still looking at all the aircraft, blissfully unaware of the crash. There had not been anymore flight demonstrations, so we assumed that the clouds, and the haze caused by the humidity had finally gotten the best of the aircraft. The announcer had made several comments earlier about the effect humidity had on the performance of the jet fighter planes, causing more drag etc, making them more difficult to control at times. So, we figured the show was done for the day and left in high spirits, only to have our proverbial “balloon” deflated upon arriving home and hearing the words “did you see the crash? the pilot died you know…”

I hate the thought that someone gave his life to put on a show for people like me. Since hearing the news I have asked myself many times “is it worth it?”

Then I thought about all the things I have had the opportunity to do in my life, all the things I am passionate about – motorcycling, skydiving, flying of any kind, climbing to high places only to stand as clos to the edge as I can without falling off (no, I have never been mountain climbing, but not for a lack of desire) – I am an adrenaline junky. I have a passion for these things like nothing else I can describe. I am aware of the risks involved with these activities, yet, the risk makes no difference in my decision to do these things. To take these things from me would be more horrible than any death I would suffer by doing them, and would kill me just the same.

No, it’s not a death wish. It’s a “life” wish. Although I am aware that I may die doing these things, that is not my desire. My desire is to live life to the fullest. My desire is to experience everything that I can, while I can.

I am not a pilot. But again, that isn’t for the lack of desire. I have wanted to become a pilot since I was 5 years old and my grandfather took me to my first airshow. The only thing preventing me from becoming a pilot as I was growing up was money. The only thing preventing me from doing it now is Parkinson’s disease. I have talked to the pilots of these magnificent planes and found that even though I am not a pilot, we share a common bond.

Passion.

They love what they do. They take every safety precaution they know of to make things as safe as possible, yet in the end there is still a risk. They know this, yet they embrace their passion wit a zest for life.

They don’t have a “death wish.” How could they when death is the only thing that will prevent them from doing what they enjoy so much? 

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