College senior Gina.
When I was a senior in college, I somehow convinced my mother to accept the fact that I'd be flying off to Ireland for a 10 day trip as part of a course I was taking. It was an elective, but I'd always wanted to travel and I'd always wanted to go to Ireland. Why not do both under the guise of academic success, right?
Well, the only thing keeping me from being totally psyched about my trip to the Emerald Isle was the flight. I'd never been on an airplane before. I was scared stupid, quite frankly. At this point in my life, I was a lack-luster Catholic at absolute best. I didn't attend Mass, I was all sorts of pro-homosexual agenda, I still held onto several new-age theories, and, though I prayed, it was very much the selfish "God, please make X, Y and Z happen for me" type prayer that doesn't really count as communication so much as whining for stuff that was bad for me.
Anyway, I was still Catholic enough to know I needed Confession before I met my Maker (which, again, I was sure would happen if I boarded that plane!). So I rushed to find a priest who agreed to take me last-minute (we're talking the night before I left).
The entire ride up to the airport I was nervous. I joked off most of my nerves, but I could feel the anxiety welling up inside me. I had asked my mother to get me a scapular so I could have it for protection (again, I wasn't the best Catholic, but I knew enough to enlist the help of Our Lady). She found a Green Scapular (which I've since come to know and love). I had that baby clutched in my right hand and wrapped around my wrist. I also carried my Pieta book and a rosary in my right hand. To be safe, I carried a tiny bit of Lourdes water with me as well. I wasn't using these items as they were intended (not like I knew that at the time), but I felt better that they were on my person.
Anyway, my friend sat next to me the entire time. He'd flown plenty, so he wasn't the least bit concerned. I thought sitting next to the window would help. I couldn't have been further from the truth.
We were sitting directly behind the wings. I had a perfect view of their span. As the plane began racing down the runway, I began saying the Hail Mary. Being as terrified as I was, I also began to cry. We hadn't even taken off and I was freaking out. My friend was trying to calm me down as best he could, but nothing could convince me I wasn't about to die in a fireball of doom.
Then, it happened. Thinking about it now makes me physically cringe. Ugh. I looked out the window to assure myself that everything was OK when I felt the lift-off. Trying to convince myself all was well, I looked out my window only to see the wing begin to "break apart."
In all reality, the wing was operating as it's supposed to, but as someone who has never flown, I had no idea they were supposed to break into little panels to control air flow. I just thought they broke and we were now going to die.
At the same time the wing "broke," I saw that the plane was dipping sharply to the side - the side which I just witnessed the wing "breaking apart." I couldn't even finish my prayers anymore. I was SHOUTING (yes, SHOUTING) "Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary!" over and over again as I clutched my rosary, scapular and Pieta book. My friend had given up attempting to console me and was probably trying to figure out how to best stuff his fist down my throat to shut me up. Not that I'd've blamed him. I was a mess!
The shouts of "Hail Mary" continued for at least a full two or three minutes. I felt like a lunatic. When the plane finally leveled off and the seat belt sign flashed off, I saw a hand reach over the seat in front of me with a handful of tissues. I didn't see her face, but I heard her ask, "First time flying, dear?"
Someone should've just shot me where I sat. I was incredibly embarrassed. Words just... they can't possibly do my embarrassment justice.
For the next 5 1/2 hours, people were coming up to me to ask if I was the screaming woman from take-off. My classmates and professor, too, came back to make sure I hadn't tried offing myself. Oh my goodness... I can't believe how ridiculous I acted... how many other people I might've scared... how many children I might've scared!
As my brother pointed out, "Is screaming like that really how you plan to spend your last moments? Even if the plane WAS going down, what would screaming have done?"
Ever since he made that point, I've been relatively OK with flying (and with everything else, actually). I can't prevent the inevitable, but I can trust that God will take care of things as He sees fit. That was probably the first concrete realization I had that I need to give up some of the control I had to have over everything in my life.
But I digress.
That's the story of my first flight. Highly embarrassing, especially when you consider I was an adult at the time. Ugh. But lesson learned - wings don't break apart, and the ground that comes rushing up at you doesn't mean the engine died... it just means we're turning. Good to know for first-time fliers. I honestly wish someone had told me that. Ha ha!
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