Monday, September 5, 2011

A "191"?

On Friday May 25, 1979, American Airlines flight 191---a routine flight from Chicago to Los Angeles---was taking off from O'Hare International Airport on a clear sunny afternoon, when unexpectedly, during take-off, the left engine tore off, severing the hydraulic fluid lines and damaging the wings.  This caused the plane to lift off unevenly (the right side higher than the left), resulting in the enormous-sized jumbo jet (a DC-10) flipping over and crashing, instantly killing all on board.  (It was later determined that the cause of the crash was both improper maintenance on the part of American Airlines and certain design flaws in the aircraft itself.)

On Friday August 2, 1985, Delta flight 191, a routine flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles---with a stop in Dallas/Ft. Worth---crashed while landing at the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, killing 134 of the people on board (there were 29 survivors).  The jumbo jet (an L-1011) flew into what turned out to be a severe thunderstorm while making a routine landing---the experienced pilots, who have in the past managed to navigate inclement weather, underestimated the intensity of this "pop-up" storm and ended up encountering what is now known as "microburst-induced wind shear", which literally "forced the plane up" intensely, then "threw it back down" equally as intensely---causing total loss-of-control, resulting in a crash landing just short of their designated runway.

So, why did I bring up the subject of these two tragic events---besides the fact that the "flight numbers" of both happened to be "191"?
Because the underlying gist of both events is the fact that they were unexpected tragedies which occurred under otherwise "normal" conditions.  There was nothing about the moments preceding them that would in any way indicate something bizarre was about to happen.
As such I've adopted, as a personal metaphor, the number "191" as a term for those occasions when something tragic or disasterous happens when there is seemingly no reason such said event should have occurred.  Those times, for example, when I "do what I've always done before"---or follow "proper procedures", or instructions, to a tee---and things still either "don't turn out right" or result in disaster.

Oftentimes it's later discovered that there were already underlying imperfections present that simply went unnoticed until just that "wrong moment" that brings them out into the open ...that small crack in the water pipes that finally gave way when one-too-many surges pushed on it, causing it to burst and flood the bathroom;  the glass pane in the screen door that rattled back-and-forth whenever the door was shut abruptly "loosening" the seal around the edges of the glass---then, one day, you're in a bad mood about something and you just SLAM the screen door and, low-and-behold: the glass shatters "in-a-million-pieces" right in your face, and you have one BIG mess to clean up for the next two hours or so (plus now, you also have to remove the inner frame and will have no "storm window" to keep out the cold come winter). 
...just as American Airlines flight 191 and Delta flight 191 "didn't see it coming", likewise neither will you or I when WE experience our own "191s".  

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