By KABS KANU :
Some years back , my family and I were going on vacation. We were travelling to Puerto Rico to join a cruise ship CARNIVAL VALOR for a Caribbean Cruise that would take us to Barbados, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and St. Marteens . My whole family in the U.S. was in the plane–Daddy ( Me ) , mummy( Wife ) , daughter and 2 sons.
The flight from JFK International Airport in New York started well and the JET BLUE airliner –I believe a 747 because it was a big plane with 265 people onboard –was doing very fine. Initially, it was one of the smoothest flights I had ever experienced and I even afforded to enjoy a nap because I had stayed up all night packing for the morning flight. But about three hours into the 4-hour flight to Puerto Rico, everything changed. The plane suddenly went berserk and started to rock, shake and dip up and down.
THE MAIN LIGHTS ARE OFF AS THE PLANE UNDERWENT A LONG , VIOLENT TURBULENCE IN VERY BAD AND FRIGHTENING WEATHER
The once smooth ride turned into a nightmare . I have been in turbulence many times before and have even had a frightening experience with my same family when going on another cruise when the pilot suddenly dipped the plane down about three hundred feet below in a heart-wrenching ordeal for reasons that were never explained. Whether the pilot dipped to escape an incoming flight or for mechanical purposes we were never told. I do not fear in planes because I have read so much about them that I know them to be safe and just to understand why planes fly I had even privately studied some Thermodynamics. I know planes to be the safest mode of transportation in the world, so I am usually as cool as a cucumber in a plane. However, this was to be the most intense and longest turbulence I have ever experienced. The suspicion that all was not well started earlier when the pilot suddenly asked us to put on our safety belts.
THE WING OF THE PLANE WAS SHAKING
The plane was swaying and dipping and shaking and at one time the lights were flickering. This went on for over five minutes without anyone reacting at first. I was sitting by the window and could see the wing shaking. At first, everybody was quite, holding out that it was just a minor turbulence that would soon pass. But it continued. What had started as a very smooth flight was descending into a totally-frightening experience. Panic started. The plane was shaking enough to frighten everyone . Soon, people started raising their voices asking what was going on. I too started asking loudly : “Why is the plane shaking so much ? “. For once, I became frightened in a plane . I could no longer pretend. It looked like the plane was about to crash. Soon, the main lights went off. I do not know if it was by design or the turbulence caused it. But it was very frightening. The plane was behaving like it was going out of control.
You can imagine how I was feeling. Most of my nuclear family were in the plane-wife, daughter , 2 sons. I was more worried for them than myself. We had not informed many family members about the trip. Imagine. Almost my whole family was in the plane . My prayerful wife started muttering prayers while I was fussing, demanding answers from the air hostesses who were clinging to the plane, frightened themselves. .My daughter and one of my sons sat silently but I spotted fear in the eyes of the other son. Something was going wrong and everybody in the plane knew that.
Then the pilot announced : We had entered an area of bad weather–Severe thunderstorms– which were causing the turbulence and HE WAS GOING TO ASK CONTROL TOWER FOR OUR FLIGHT PATH TO BE DIVERTED TO GET AWAY FROM THE BAD WEATHER. ( REMEMBER THE PILOT OF THE DOOMED AIRASIA plane did the same. Remember ? He called control tower to allow him to ascend higher to dodge the storms. Similar circumstances ) . Our pilot assured us that we would soon be directed to change path and we would be alright . He asked us to keep our belts fastened and asked us to remain calm . But it looked like his request to air control to divert path was not granted, because after a while the pilot came on the microphone again and asked us to continue to remain calm as there were 20 miles more of bad weather ahead and the turbulence would cease after that. But it did not happen. The turbulence was worsening by the minute. Do you remember how you used to feel when the bus used to enter that bump after crossing the Savage Street Bridge in Freetown before St. John ? Where your heart would seem to suddenly flutter ? That was what was happening to us because of the unsteady and sudden up-and-down movement of the plane in the turbulence . I started regretting for travelling with my whole family in a plane. People government pikin dem . I started praying to God earnestly to save us. This must not happen to my family. My children are so young and innocent and have not enjoyed anything yet . My wife is too precious. I started praying to God to save us, like some other passengers were doing . Did we pray. My wife too was praying. Everybody was praying. Everybody was tensed and terror reigned supreme. The turbulence kept getting worse and that wing was shaking . The plane was going out of control.
THE JOURNALIST IN ME… I COULD NOT RESIST THE URGE. I WANTED TO TAKE PHOTOS. I TOOK OUT MY PHONE. I MUST TAKE SOME PHOTOS . Though fear reigned on board, the journalist in me could not stop me from taking photos. THIS IS HOW YOU GET IMMORTAL ACTION PHOTOS AND THIS IS WHAT DEFINES US AS JOURNALISTS. We will always record everything, even our death, if possible. Here was the plane behaving like it was about to crash and I was taking photos, but once a journalist, always a journalist. Many passengers did not understand. My wife was not surprised. She knows me. She has been with me for nearly 40 years. She knows my niche for journalistic picture-taking.
The first photo was taken when the lights started flickering and then the main lights went off. The second photo was taken when stability began returning and the lights were back.
AFTER NORMALCY WAS RESTORED
One thing that made it an entirely frightening experience was not just the severity of the turbulence , but the length of time . It took long. The pilot said 20 miles more but I am sure it was about 100 miles , because it lasted long. I am sure everybody in the plane had given up hope . We just kept praying and praying , and after a horrific experience none of us will ever forget, God answered our prayers at last . The turbulence suddenly started decreasing and the pilot announced 20 minutes later that we had started our initial approach to San Juan International Airport. OH, HOW THANKFUL WE WERE.
THE PLANE IS OUT OF THE TURBULENCE AND DESCENDING NOW TO SAN JUAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
You could literally hear the sighs of relief as the plane started its descent . Now we were seeing the ocean all around us . The descent continued until we started seeing land and buildings and then the airport. The pilot asked us to keep our belts fastened and prepare for landing. When the wheels of the plane touched earth and started groveling us along the tarmac , everybody cheered and a woman sitting across the aisle burst into tears of joy, praising “Yesus” in Spanish.
Today, as I watch TV and see an aircraft that never came out of its own turbulence caused by similar bad weather and crashed into the ocean beneath, killing all 106 people onboard , I could not help making this testimony to thank God for saving our lives that day . We could have crashed too but God saved us. May his name be praised and may his glory remain forever. I pray that God will comfort the hearts of the relatives of the victims of the AirAsia plane crash. May the souls of the victims rest in peace. God knows best.