Today I took a flight from Madrid to Berlin to connect to Krakow, my next destination on this little adventure of mine. Traveling alone has left me very contemplative, and being on a plane evokes more serious thoughts than normal.
It has been about two weeks since the Malaysian airline en route from Amsterdam was shot down over Ukraine, killing all passengers onboard. It is a senseless tragedy that should not have happened and it reflects a lot about the powers behind the individuals responsible for such a tragedy. As I sit on this flight, I am not afraid, as planes so rarely crash and the MH-17 was (hopefully) the only tragedy of it’s kind that will ever happen from here on out, but there is sadly no certainty. I am sitting in the aisle seat, to my left is a young Spanish couple, recently married, I gather from the desktop background picture on his laptop of them on their wedding day. To my right is a British women and her two children, both curled up and sleeping, heads in her lap. I stand to walk to the lavoratory, slowly passing down the aisle past row after row of unique faces, of all ages, ethnicities, men and women, some awake and some asleep. Some make eye contact with me as I pass, others are fixated on the movie playing on the small square screens that fold down from the same compartment that contains the oxygen masks. Being one amongst this diversity, a collective group of souls in a metal tube in the sky, every single one of us reliant on the pilots and air traffic controllers to get us to our destinations safely. Thousands of people fly everyday without problem, across oceans and continents. Flying is safe. The successes greatly outweigh the failures. The problem is that a failure is almost certain death, an end to every soul on board the aircraft. The MH-17 tragedy makes me question what our responsibility as flying travelers is, how can we play some role in making sure that something like this never happens again? Do we need to demand that our corrupt and selfish leaders get their acts together, demand that our nations communicate with each other? Is a lack of communication to blame for this tragedy? How do we ensure that airspace for travelers is always safe, devoid of risk from rebel groups fueled by corrupt governments?
My heart breaks to think of the innocent Dutch lives that were stolen, due to dangerous weapons in the wrong hands and a conflict spurred by political insensitivity and greed. They had nothing to do with the conflict in between Russia and Ukraine, yet they paid for a political disagreement with their lives. The young children on board. The two to my right have bright futures, so many memories to make and things to do in their lives which have only just begun, how can we, as a global community of travelers, sit still and be quiet when lives just like these toe were ended when that plane was shot down? I don’t want the global community to wage a war with Russia, as that won’t bring back the lives already lost and will only guarantee more tragedy. I think we have a responsibility, although I’m not exactly sure what it is or how we fulfill it, but to demand that these things do not happen, ever. If nothing else, we need to be aware that these tragedies do happen, and can happen to anyone, even us. Having respect for airline crew is one easy thing that every traveler needs to acquire. Nothing is worse than seeing travelers get pissed at a flight attendant because their flight is delayed or for whatever other trivial reason. The employee in the navy blue uniform is not the reason the plane is still on the ground. They all just want us to get to our destinations safely, so that they too can go home. I have started making sure I take out my headphones and listen to the safety speech at the beginning of each flight, despite the fact that I’ve heard it time and time again. It is a sign of respect for the safety professionals who have taken the responsibility for us during our journey in the air.
I’m not quite sure if there will ever be a 100% survival rate for all air travel, and I am still able to fly without much fear or anxiety as I have been my whole life, but a such recent tragedy just brings forth a lot of emotion. I have hope that one day, senseless civilian casualties will cease to exist and that we can go about our adventures without so much as a thought of the possibility of a lethal mishap.