Monday, March 10, 2008

Have you ever thought “This time, I really am going to die?”

I have. And it wasn’t pretty.

Two weeks ago, on the same day my brother welcomed his first child to the world, my girls and I were flying from Ontario to Sacramento after a weekend of visiting my family. Both of my kids are star travelers because they have traveled since they were very young. (Dylan’s first flight was at 2.5 weeks old!) The flight started off fine. Dylan was happily sitting next to the window, Hayden was in the middle and I was sitting on the aisle. Both girls were playing with little toys I keep packed in a lunchbox. Suddenly the plane started shaking uncontrollably and all of the little toys in both lunchboxes bounced onto the floor.

I felt a moment of panic, not due to the turbulence, but because of the loss of the Polly Pockets now on the floor. Hayden wanted them back and Dylan started to unhook her seatbelt to pick them up. Then the plane sounded like it was going to explode and Dylan looked at me with huge eyes and asked if we were going to die. She begged me to sit next to her because she was scared. The plane just kept shaking, not the dropping like a roller coaster type of turbulence, but the kind where you can hear every single piece of the plane creaking and bouncing. The pilot came over the loudspeaker and said that due to the unsafe turbulence the flight attendants were not going to be able to leave their seats.

I was too afraid to unhook Hayden’s seatbelt to move next to Dylan. And Dylan just kept looking at me asking if we were going to be OK. And for the first time in my life I wasn’t sure. I was so scared. I kept thinking this was going to be one of the best days in my parent’s life (with the birth of their first grandson) and the worst because I wasn’t sure how much turbulence the plane could take and I felt like we were going to die. The feeling is dizzying. Being a parent and trying to calm your frightened children while not lying was horrible.

Hayden clung to Dylan and kept telling her she was OK. I tried to reach my cell phone in my purse so I could take a picture and then send it to Mike, because I honestly thought it would be the last thing he’d ever get from me. But then I told myself I wasn’t going to, I was going to send all my energy to the plane and the pilots. I stopped thinking about dying and focused all my energy to making sure we lived.

The turbulence lasted 40 minutes.

Once we landed, Mike met us in the baggage claim and I couldn’t look him in the eye. When I called my parents to tell them we had arrived, I lied and said the flight was fine.

As of today, two weeks later, I’m still not sure I can ever fly with my kids again.