After handing the gate agent our boarding passes at LAX, Mike and I headed down the little gangway for the plane. There were still 50 people ahead of us, so we had to wait in the tunnel until the line moved along. We were small talking, the kind of talk when you know everyone around you is listening to your every word. All of a sudden, the gangway jolted.
Jolting is not a preferred feeling when boarding an aircraft, particularly when it’s a mere 48 hours after a near-major jolting over the Atlantic.
We gave each other a worried look, and then looked at the other passengers who were just as bewildered as we were. One midde-aged Chinese-American woman turned around to face us.
“Did you feel that?” she asked, somewhat panicked. “I felt that! I saw the plane move too!”
“Yes, what was that? Why did this tunnel just move?” I asked in reply. “Like we really need this sort of alarm after the scare on Friday.”
Apparently I thought it would be smart to remind everyone of the danger we were surely encountering. I’m sensitive like that.
Neither Mike nor I gave much thought to flying despite the thwarted Christmas day terrorist attack. We both have a very practical, somewhat unspoken agreement that we won’t live in fear of the things we can’t control. Do I have control over the odds that I will board the same plane as a terrorist? No; I am too busy controlling the hyper-increased security check to make sure none of my orafices are searched.
It was all the more surprising then that the lady in front of us told us she DID have control over the terrorists.
She replied to my statement, “They’re not taking ME down. We fight back,” she said assuredly. “If there is a terrorist on this plane there is no way he would get away with his plans.”
Suddenly I felt a surge of love for this woman, this small person who was in no way small, who represented the collective anger and strength the US has endured the last eight years. Here she was, knowing in all certainty that no person hell-bent on hurting her would ever succeed in doing so. She was ready to give her life to prove a point. She would go down fighting.
Her “FEAR NOT!” stance didn’t look anything like our “fear not” stance. We choose to assume that what will happen will happen, and we’ll deal with it as it comes. This lady has a battle plan laid out, practically daring a radical to be assigned to the seat next to her so she can show him what’s what. That is courage.
This lady is one reason why I board planes without trepidation. I know there are hundreds of thousands of people like her, people who would never sit in fear while an extremist lights a fuse in front of them. Just last Friday passengers saw smoke and pounced on the offender before any harm could occur. Why? They’re angry. They refused to be treated like sheep hunted by wolves.
Me? I’d like to believe that I would leap from my seat and attack a terrorist with whatever I could get my hands on, and if nothing, then just my bare hands. But when I’m honest, when I really picture a large man yelling at me in a foreign language with explosives in his hands, I hesistate. I fear. I see a more accurate picture of pulling myself under a seat so I can just pray or escape being shot.
And that’s not a pretty picture.
After all, since I know my soul lives eternally, why do I fear death? I considered this for some time, and realized that it’s not death that I fear. It’s much more that I love my life. I love my husband and family, and I would hate to see this rich adventure come to an end so soon.
I never learned where the jolting came from, and the flight proceeded smoothly. I was able to obsess over my glossy People magazine without worrying about my safety, and that’s exactly how every flight should be. But unlike every other flight I’ve taken, this one reminded me of my God-given right to demonstrate courage. Thankfully, I didn’t have to; we made it home safely. But that initial shake-up did serve a purpose — it jolted me awake.