Several years ago, I was flying home from a reporting trip when the pilot came on the loudspeaker and reported trouble with the controls that direct the plane.
He said we needed to make an emergency landing, and rescue vehicles would be waiting as a precaution. But he stressed that the flashing lights on the ground shouldn’t alarm anyone because he didn’t expect any problem landing the plane.
That statement would have provided more comfort if I hadn’t kept asking myself: If the plane were going to crash, would he be so candid as to say so?
“Attention, passengers, I fully expect that we are all about to die. Please buckle your seat belts and get your affairs in order.”
For an anxious flyer such as myself, that experience was scary enough.
But I can't even imagine what the passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 endured this week. As you no doubt heard, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded Tuesday after an engine exploded.
Since I wrote that post, I've come across more faith-filled news coverage that needs to be highlighted.
The New York Times' front-page narrative today on the "20 Minutes of Chaos and Terror" is especially compelling:
"Tell the girls we love them and that Jesus is with them always." Tissue, anybody? Seriously, I couldn't help but become teary-eyed reading that part.
From the start, the religious details flow freely in this Times story:
Tens of thousands of feet above the earth, the passengers clasped hands with strangers, prayed together and got ready to die.
Moments earlier on Tuesday morning, they had been playing Sudoku, catching up on their reading for church and curling up together to watch funny movies as their Southwest Airlines flight climbed above 30,000 feet on its way from New York to Dallas. It was around 11 a.m., 20 minutes into a four-hour flight, as they skimmed above the clouds and waited for flight attendants to hand out drinks.
Then, with a deafening roar, Flight 1380 became a midair scene of chaos and terror for the 144 passengers and five crew members on board.
Keep reading, and there's another A-plus quote heavy on faith:
“I grabbed my wife’s hand and I started praying: ‘Dear Jesus, send some angels. Just save us from this,’” said Timothy C. Bourman, 36, a pastor from Woodside, N.Y., who was on his way to a church retreat in San Antonio. “I thought we were goners.”
Strangely, though, the Times still doesn't mention the pilot's Christian underpinning (my original post pointed out this missing element in an earlier Times profile of Shults).
But Shults' faith figures prominently in the San Antonio Express-News' front-page story on the local pilot. In fact, the Express-News' Hearst sister paper the Houston Chronicle put this headline on the story, which it also used on Page 1:
Southwest pilot guided by faith
From the story:
In Boerne, a town northwest of San Antonio, Shults and her husband Dean, 53, also a Southwest Airlines pilot, have earned a reputation as a strongly religious, community-minded couple. They live in a Kendall County subdivision with two children, both young adults.
Friends and neighbors said the unruffled Tammie Jo Shults they heard in the cockpit recordings is the person they’ve always known — polite, approachable, practical, never one to raise her voice.
Longtime friend Staci Thompson, 38, heard that and was not surprised at Shults’ calmness during crisis.
“It sounds just like a normal conversation with her on the phone,” Thompson said.
“She has strength of character and faith in God,” said Kim Young, who has known the family since they moved to the area about15 years ago.
And just a little more:
Thompson, an administrator with First Baptist Church in Boerne who has known the family 21 years, said Dean Shults told her that his wife feels for the family of Riordan, the woman who died. “It weghs heavy on her heart,” Thompson said.
Calling her friend a woman with a big heart and giving spirit, Thompson said the Shults’ are involved with the church, and that Tammie Jo is a regular volunteer at Meadowland Charter School.
The school takes in at-risk youths who have either dropped out of regular schools or have had problems in the foster care system.
Finally, in case you missed it, CNN has an interview with the pastor who prayed for Jesus to send angels.
It's worth your time. Check it out.