One Year Later

It’s weird how people respond to tragedy. For the most part, you have some empathy, and you think it’s sad, but there’s a limit to what you can feel because you’re removed from it all. You never really think it will happen to you.

Well, two miles is close. Two miles is really close, close enough to draw you right into the tragedy, to make you learn what it feels like to be a part of a tragedy. Two miles is close enough to make you pray to God it never, ever happens again.

It’s weird seeing your hometown news channels broadcast on CNN. And to suddenly have to worry if your neighbor, who was at that point going to New York for business every week, might have been on the plane. And to have to text your friends in Boston to let them know that you and everyone you know are OK, but, yeah, you drive by that street a lot.

Colgan Air Flight 3407I had flown home the night before the crash for a long weekend. I was on Facebook before I went to bed and saw someone post something about a plane crashing in Clarence, but I figured it was an exaggeration — it was probably just a transformer blowing up or something. But then, as I was falling asleep, a friend texted me asking where Long Street was. I told him I had no idea — I don’t know street names over there — why was he asking?

“Because a plane just crashed there.”

Holy. $*#%.

I was awake. I barely slept that night. I kept flipping between news channels, looking for new developments, just watching the situation get worse and worse. I fell asleep with the TV on, woke up around 7am and kept watching. The stories, the video, everything was absolutely haunting, especially because, as the passenger list slowly developed and more details came out, it seems like most people in Western New York had some connection to Flight 3407.

I can’t even presume to know what the loved ones of those 50 people are going through. They have experienced more pain than most of us will ever know, yet they’ve been stronger than most of us will ever be. They’re turning this horrible experience into a fight to make sure it will never happen again, and that’s something absolutely amazing.

The hard part, for me, was figuring out how I should feel about that crash. I was fortunate to not be directly connected with anyone who died, but it still upset me. If that plane had landed somewhere else, even gone a few hundred feet in a different direction, it could have been someone I know. Getting on a plane that Monday to fly back to Boston was terrifying. I’m a nervous flier as it is, but when I’m on a small plane now, I get even worse.

Most of us weren’t personally involved, yet it affects us because this is our community. And I think, above anything else, that just means we should support each other, most especially the families of those 50 victims.

So please, do something as small as saying a prayer for all those affected. Keep them in your thoughts. Support the airline safety bills they’re advocating. Hug the people you love, and tell them you love them.

And if you’re of the mindset that this story is no longer news, just skip to the next page or the next channel. There’s no need to comment. But be thankful that it’s that easy for you to forget, because it could have been very different.

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