Yesterday, the plane I was travelling on was struck by lightning (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d find myself writing!)
I was on my way back from a wonderful trip to Stockholm and for the first couple of hours the flight was smooth as can be. It was an evening flight and all around me passengers were drinking wine and eating snacks and chatting happily. But then, just as we began our descent into London, we became engulfed in a bank of dark grey cloud and hit some turbulence.
And then, out of nowhere, there was a loud bang and the whole plane jolted.
My first thought was that there’d been some kind of explosion. The woman in front of me started rocking back and forth and tapping her head in a set rhythm, which I assume was some kind of anxiety relief technique. The rest of us all started exchanging anxious glances.
Whenever I’ve had cause for concern on a plane before I look to the cabin crew to see how they’re behaving. If they’re carrying on as normal I instantly relax. But yesterday when I looked to the front of the plane there were no crew to be seen.
There’s been an explosion, they’re preparing for an emergency landing, I told myself. Followed swiftly by, why oh why do I never properly follow the ‘what to do in the event of an emergency’ spiel at the beginning of the flight? I have no clue how to put on the oxygen mask, and where did they say the life jackets were stowed?!
The woman in front continued rocking and tapping as she reached for her sick bag, and the rest of us continued exchanging nervous glances.
My mind rewound to three hours previously when I’d been sitting in a restaurant at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport eating a delicious tomato, cheese and basil creation baked into the fluffiest bread and drinking in the scene all around me. People of all nationalities were eating, drinking, laughing, chatting and I was feeling so frickin’ happy. The kind of happy that reaches deep into your bones, deep into your soul.
I’d just had a wonderful few days in a beautiful city, coming right on top of a month in America, and before that, trips to Norway and Jamaica. Finally, after years of waiting, I was getting to fulfil my travel dreams.
I felt so free sitting at that table, so fully and completely me. And best of all, it felt as if the adventure was only really beginning.
I boarded the plane feeling totally chilled. Put on my headphones. Lost myself in music and daydreams for two hours. And then…
The next few minutes seemed to stretch on forever. I wondered if whatever had exploded would cause a fire in the cabin. I contemplated the possibility of an emergency landing. I briefly allowed the image of us all plunging to our doom to enter my mind.
But never once did I regret getting on that plane. If I was about to die at least it would have been in the pursuit of a dream and adventure. The thought was strangely comforting.
I cast my mind back to this time last year, when it truly felt as if I was dying a slow and painful death inside due to my post pandemic circumstances.
During the covid years the borders of my life had crept closer and closer inwards and I’d had to shrink myself and my personality to fit.
At the start of last year I hit a real rock bottom and I seriously wondered if I was becoming depressed.
But I had the strongest feeling that my depression was purely situational so I worked my butt off to escape my situation, broaden my horizons and bring myself back to life. And I’m happy to report that I succeeded.
So when the almighty bang hit the plane I realised that if I was about to die I was at least going to die happy and without regret and that this was a far better option than slowly and painfully dying inside from a life not fully lived. It was a powerful realisation.
Finally the pilot’s voice came over the speakers: ‘Cabin crew prepare for landing.’
There was no mention of an emergency landing. Could it be that we were going to be OK?
Gatwick Airport appeared through the window, the ground growing closer and closer, and then we touched down without a single issue.
As we taxied to our gate the pilot came back on. ‘Welcome to London Gatwick. Some of you might have heard a loud bang a while ago. This was due to the plane being struck by lightning. I know that this can be a very scary and unsettling experience but there’s no need to worry as planes are built to withstand lightning strikes.’
I’m not sure why he didn’t think to give us this reassurance right after the lightning strike happened - I know the rocking, tapping woman in front of me would have appreciated it for certain. But I’m going to focus on being grateful. Not only for having made it down safely but for the 20 minutes or so when I wasn’t sure what was about to happen.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my life and the choices I’m making.
I’m grateful that I no longer feel as if I’m dying inside, slowly and painfully.
A scary experience for sure and one that I can relate to, my wife and I were flying to Texas a few years ago and somewhere over the US we flew between two huge thunderheads. All was quiet in the aircraft as l lightening was clearly visible on both sides, then….. BANG!. The sound inside the aircraft was so loud, queue a few screams and muttered praying from the person in front of us.
I can honestly say that touching down in Texas was greatly appreciated, only afterwards sitting in the Texas heat with a cold beer did the flight catch up with me. 😮💨
Just thought I’d share this with you, a shared experience somewhat. ✈️ ⚡️
Love it! Glad you’re safe x