"Has it Been?"
by Julia Ferganchick
June 3, 1999

 

Some hours ago--has it been minutes, days, or months--I lived through the crash of flight 1420. I was one of the fortunate ones.

I ache. My arm, tied together with taut surgical string, puffs out in blue. My leg, sprinkled with blood red gashes swells against tight skin. My foot is cut down deep beneath the callous that I had thought too tough to penetrate. My forehead is bruised, my arms ache, my ribs hurt, my head swims in terrifying waters of fiery images. I am blessed to feel all this. My limbs are not broken, though I have seen many broken feet and legs. My head does not bleed as I'm sure Jeff's still does; my heart is steady, unlike that man whose heart contorted in wild frenzy as we fell to the ground in the swamp waters. My wounds are shallow compared to those of Fred's. I held a shirt to his bleeding groin, hot blood mixing with the stinging hail on our backs and faces and arms.

I hurt. My gut is hollow and my heart terrified. When I close my eyes, my head sinks down between my knees and my arms reach out toward the woman who sat next to me. I feel her hold me, we hold each other. Strangers become lovers as we protect each other. I feel the power, awesome power of contorted metal, break plastic, snapping arms and legs. I watch the ceiling above me, the wall beside me crumble like discarded paper maiche. I taste the spray of fuel, feel black fumes in my lungs, touch the fiery blaze. And I am blessed to know this. I am blessed because the crashing metal did not smash my head, the flames did not catch my clothes, glass did not slice through my veins. I am blessed because I am alive to relive this fear, to feel warm tears roll across my face. I am blessed because I can still feel the arms of loved ones around me, tender care touch me, water poured from a green cup over my head to wash away the smell of burning gas.

I am sad for those who love me. I hear the ache in my father's voice as he prays beneath his breath that I am alive. I see the heart of my mother break over and over again each time she wraps my wounds. I see reflections of fire and fear in Aimee's eyes. She was waiting for me at the airport. She lived through a tornado some months ago, and now I see the fear of that tragedy in her eyes again. I can feel Chere crying, blaming herself for asking me to come. I feel her wanting to take the pain away from me and the ache of knowing that she can not. I hear my sisters' cries, I feel my brother's prayers, I know they hurt. I know the ripples on this lake of disaster spread out quickly from all of us who scrambled to crawl out of that plane and those who could not. The pain spreads quickly like angry fire fueled by broken jet engines. Those who love us most hurt deeply and I am sad for them. But we are blessed, truly, my friends. Struggle can make us stronger, suffering can help us endure.

Email to Chuck (first email I could send)

You can certainly send it if you want to, chuck. I've given it to the other survivors and families, so it's kind of public. I'm pretty unable to do much now. This is the first email I've sent, and I know I have hundreds to respond to. Just can't do it all. I love you all very much and I thank you thank you thank you for thinking of me. Please tell my friends that my Mom and Aimee Dixon have been with me every minute of every day. Aimee actually was there as saw the plane crash. They are on the brink of breakdown and need good things and thoughts more than I do now. I need to be inside myself where I can wrestle this drangon. I took the first step today going to see the site. I was so scared to go, and when I saw a plane approaching for landing I lost my sensibilities. I was so scared for those people. But the plane landed and we went on. I thought I would cry and scream at the sight of that plane, but I didn't. My mind said to my heart, "it's just a bunch of crushed up metal and plastic, it's not on fire, it's not moving, it's not hurting anyone anymore. It was so good to see that wild fire-breathing beast of terror become just a thing that I could see. I wish I could have touched it, felt it's pulse to make sure it was not going to come back to life. I don't know why I'm writing you so much. Thanks for listening to me. Share my stories and writings with those who could be helped by it. Tell people to help Aimee and my mom. Those who love a victim of something like this get little understanding and appreciation. I can't give them what I want to give them, but I feel so bad that I'm taking so much from them. They wouldn't want to hear me say this, but it's true. John Hubanks has been completely running DUBS with his wife, Shea, and Susy, and Jenna, and Dee, and Sara, and I can't be there like I know I should. But I will soon. I will soon. I love so much and so many. Thank you, thank you. There's a woman in whose name is Rene who was in the plane with her two children. They are all alive but badly burned. Please pray for her--she will need much help in healing. Please do one little thing to help these people today.

At 08:37 AM 6/4/99 -0500, you wrote:

>Hey, Ruth and Julie and I are thinking about you and seending you our love.
>We were so moved by your writing. Why not send it to the Arkansas Democrat
>Gazette with the condition that it not be edited in any way? The world
>ought to hear that brave and wonderful message.
>
>Chuck

Last night the Care Team called and asked if I wanted to see the "site." The crash, the plane, the disaster. Yes. I did not hesitate. I want to see, I need to see. We left early and I was terrified, shaking with the fear of coming--and I can't write this. I sit here looking at this screen trying to find words that will tell you what I felt because I want you to know, but I come short. Maybe all my words were in my purse that burned on the airplane. Perhaps I had pressed them in to the pages of my art my book, between all those beautiful drawings I had done alone and with friends. That burned too. I have lost my identity, my strength, and my words. But I have this glow hidden somewhere deep inside that I can tend, and maybe it will grow strong and bloom words soon. I will keep trying, and keep trying because the words will come. They are like tears sometimes, they keep running through my body and I can not understand them or stop them. I am scared to talk and scared to write, but I fear most silence.

I go to see the site. I was so scared to go, and when I saw a plane approaching for landing I lost my sensibilities. I was so scared for those people. But the plane landed and we went on. I thought I would cry and scream at the sight of that plane, but I didn't. My mind said to my heart, "it's just a bunch of crushed up metal and plastic, it's not on fire, it's not moving, it's not hurting anyone anymore. It was so good to see that wild fire-breathing beast of terror become just a thing that I could see. I wish I could have touched it, felt it's pulse to make sure it was not going to come back to life.

Monday

Today my son, Kyle, will fly to Tucson for his scheduled summer holiday with his father's parents. I believe he should be terrified to step aboard a potential mass of contorted metal and smashed glass. He is not. My fears are not his, and I realize that I can not make them so. Nor should I. So I will be brave for him. And I will grow in strength at his bravery as he disappears into the plane. I believe, now, that I will fly again. I should try soon. I wonder if I can. I wonder if I should. I wish I didn't want to. So much easier to stay home. It is 4:00 a.m. and I wonder where my sleep has gone. I've lost it somewhere. I didn't think I had it with me on the plane. Surely I didn't lose it in the swamp. I have looked beneath the pillows on the couch and I have searched between the sheets on my bed. But I can not find it. "Sleep, where are you?" Is sleep flamable? I suppose it is, but I didn't have it with me on the plane. Sleep is my nighttime lover, my afternoon affair. Surely she will come back to me.

Kyle is 11 years old. I am almost 31. We both have long lives to live. Thank God.

 

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