A customer in the shop, laughing and joking, excited at flying his plane to the Lower 48. We finished mods to it, and then, being a slow day, I went back and with the guys, watched him take off, pleased at a job well done and happy to have a great customer. His plane flashed by, gathering speed on the runway, and lifted off into the lightly gray cloudy sky. And then, he was gone.
Broke up midair, they say, in a thunderstorm over Indiana. No fault of ours, nothing to do with our work (and Lord knows, the FAA was through our shop for a thorough investigation anyway, to make sure all bases were covered.)
Last summer*, a 206 taking off from Merill Field, and something didn't sound quite right. By the time he passed the old tower, he was spitting flames out the exhaust, and shedding parts. He passed over, and tried to turn back. He didn't have enough lift to turn, and slid right out of the sky, below the rooflines - and then a loud BANG. A cloud of dark dense black smoke roared up, billowed and smeared across the sky, and the silence was filled by the wails of sirens as fire and police and ambulances rushed to the scene - though the pilot and his wife were beyond help.
This afternoon, I was sitting in the break room, putting my twisted ankle up for a break, when I heard a sound that was just wrong. Too low, too loud. As I struggled to get my swollen foot back in the boot, I heard that BANG you never want to hear in your life. By the time I got outside the hangar... the 206 was already gone.
And then... I called my husband, and went home. Because no matter how often I may be exposed to the naked face of how brief and short and precious life truly is, it still hurts. I will not cringe from opportunities in fear of catastrophe, but I cannot callously brush it off as I go on.
People get hurt and die. And then... Then, we must pick up the pieces, and strive to learn from what came before. Do not let arrogance, ignorance, or fear blind you to lessons to be learned, and applied.
I pray to God that there may be survivors, and that they may recover as well as able, and that I may learn from this and not follow that pilot's footsteps.
*Edited to add: Correction, this was October 1. A bright, sunny, blue-sky day, but not summer.