Eight Minutes

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Eight minutes. If you knew you only had eight minutes to live, what would you do, what would you say, how would you act?

The passengers on the German plane that crashed in the French Alps had that length of time from the initial forced descent to the time it hit a mountain.

Reports have the co-pilot doing it intentionally, while the pilot, who was locked out of the cockpit, beat on the door to try to regain access to the controls. The passengers can be heard screaming. This is confirmed by the replaying of the cockpit recorder.

The recently found flight data recorder might alter the eight minutes slightly, but, if so, not much. The co-pilot even accelerated the plane on the way down.

It’s almost a Rod Serling TV Twilight Zone episode in several aspects. Rod Serling, for those too young to remember, liked to employ strange occurrences as the basis for the story line, but then play out the characteristics and peculiarities of the people involved, and that then became the focal point. How people still defined their personalities in surreal surroundings.

What would you have done if you had been on that doomed plane? First, you don’t know how long you have. You didn’t brush up on your geography to find out the tallest of the French Alps, and if those are the ones you will hit. A minute? Two minutes?

Do you know by what the pilot is trying to do that the co-pilot is about to commit suicide and mass murder? Could there instead be something wrong with the plane? Maybe a stall, and the co-pilot doesn’t have time to unlock the cabin door to let the pilot in. Maybe the co-pilot is trying to pull the plane out of the dive. Maybe the plane will be high enough to fly between two mountains and escape the Alps altogether, albeit maybe only 500 feet off the ground.

But you’ve spent too much time being concerned about the plane. There’s nothing you can do about that.

What kind of shape is your life in? Did you say goodbye to your family? Did you tell everyone you love them? Are you trying to reach someone on your iPhone? There’s false hope you’re getting through, and then a realization the iPhone has no reachable cell tower.

Are you trying to hug any of the people who are screaming? Perhaps a young mother with her small child, and her husband is not on the plane. Perhaps an older lady who feels like she was allowed more out of life than you were, and she shuns you away. Perhaps a husband whose family is home, and you extend a hand to shake his, not fully knowing if that is of any comfort to him.

Or the young people on the plane. Are you saying something to reassure them? Can you say anything to reassure them?

Are you getting back in your seat, and strapping in as tight as possible? There have been lone survivors of a plane crash. Several years ago in Lexington, Kentucky a commuter plane misidentified the runway to take off from in a fog, the one they were on was too short, and it crashed at the end of the runway. Ironically, the co-pilot was the only survivor.

Would you want to be the only survivor? Perhaps family members of the ones who died might blame you for living. Social media might descend on you, pick apart your life, and say of all people to survive, you were the one who least deserved it.

Do you get out of your seat, and go up to help the pilot beat down the cockpit door? You search around, and because of safety precautions in place to prevent anyone from breaking down the cockpit door from the outside, you can’t find anything more substantial than your fists.

Why in God’s name you say, didn’t Lufthansa, the parent company of this airline, institute the same policy the United States has where another person, probably a flight attendant, must be in the cockpit, if either the pilot or co-pilot leaves the cockpit temporarily.

Then you say to yourself why in the world am I using God’s name, when I should be on my knees trying to straighten out everything that I screwed up on in life?

Is there that minute where your life flashes in front of you? Some people have said that happens when you are about to die. People who have had near-death experiences, and they survived. But this is not about to be a near-death experience. It is death in all of its finality.

Are you so out of your mind, none of this is real, and then there is that cacophony of louder and louder screams that brings you back to the here and now? There is praying out loud. There are confessions out loud.

You blame yourself for taking this flight. You look around, and there are eyes of those who see nothing even though they are staring directly at you. There is finally a definitive word by someone unidentified out of all the confusion, “Why?”

You feel sorry for yourself. Then you feel sorry for others, because their life might not have been as good as yours. You think about forgiving the co-pilot, then you say to Hell with him, because that’s where he’s going.

Then you think of all the eight minutes you’ve had in life, although you don’t really know this is an eight minute segment. But whatever it is you’ve had some of that block of time you didn’t pay much attention to. Some of this segment of time you are experiencing, there have been other similar segments of tremendous importance in your life. You try to remember them.

You think of being at home, sitting at the table with your family for what you did not know was your last meal with them. You look around at all of their faces. It is a strange dinner, for all of your relatives are there, even those who have already died.

You have less than a second as you look out the window, and you see the plane flying into the mountain at 460 miles per hour.

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