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  • I was working on my computer, lost in thought as our twin engine plane coasted over the Bering Sea, returning to mainland Alaska from the remote Pribilof Islands (300 miles off the coast).

    there was a loud bang. Someone saw fire shoot out of one of the engines. Everyone sort of inhaled quickly and vocally. An audible, shared inhalation. Then that engine, on the right side of the plane went quiet and the loud engine volume became 50% lessened while the left engine droned on. There was a slight tip of the wing but nothing more.

    I looked out of the window. Down below was the sea, covered in ice. Where before it was attractive, remote, sublime it became instantly inhospitable --and closer.

    *At least 5 long minutes went by*

    Then the sole flight attendant appeared and began to walk down the aisle of the plane, addressing a few of the 12 or so passengers at a time. When she reached me, she stated the obvious. We'd lost power in one engine. The pilot was going to land in the closest village with a runway--Dillingham, about 15 minutes away. Then she taught me the brace position to take in case of a crash landing.

    *15 minutes*

    I quietly closed up my computer, put it under my seat, and put on all of the winter clothing I had with me on the plane, pulling up my hood extra tight around my head.
    I'd heard plenty of stories--planes going down in bad weather in rural Alaska, miles from anything, sometimes survivors, sometimes not. And it was winter!

    Then with my head down and my heart beating as fast as it has, I cleared my head. And sat there, in stillness, in clarity. In hope.

    As we approached Dillingham I could see a tiny runway laid out in front of us, inviting as can be. And all of the tiny, toy vehicles gathered along its side. A fire truck, an ambulance, etc. The runway grew before us until it was beneath us.

    I closed my eyes.
    The wheels touched the surface. All of them. Together.

    In the terminal, all of the passengers were light, we all just felt light.

    While waiting for a backup plane from Anchorage a few of us took a taxi into "town" to the only open eating establishment. When we walked in the door I saw this painting on the wall. It spoke to me of gratitude and that's how I felt right then...
    and so I took this picture to remember it best.
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