My brother texted me early on Saturday morning, about 9 hours after the flight was due in Beijing. My husband and I were having breakfast and I read him the text. Our first trip to Asia after we got married had included a weekend in Kuala Lumpur.
Its been over 20 years since my last flight with Singapore Airlines as a flight attendant. As flight crew, our number one priority was safety but in those days the worst scenario imaginable was a crash or mechanical failure. Pre 9/11, the frightening shadow of terrorism did not lurk in the back of flight crew’s minds as they went about their jobs. I remember regularly bringing passengers up to the flight deck for a chat with the pilot or to see the controls. It was often the highlight of their holidays to get a photo in the flight deck next to the controls, lights and switches, with the captain in his uniform with gold bars on his sleeves.
The flight crew lifestyle is one that few understand. For me it was a way to bum around the world while figuring out my life. I had just finished what we called A levels (high school here in the US) and was not ready for college. I was so sheltered that I did not think of strapping on a back pack and thumbing my way and would not have been allowed to, even if I had considered it.
But I met many dedicated flight attendants that loved their jobs and lifestyles despite the ardous long flights, erratic hours and demanding work loads. They thrived on service, on meeting new people, and were born entertainers or extroverts. They enjoyed the perks of the job and being able to give their family paid holidays.
When I heard about the Malaysian flight being missing, it almost immediately brought back the tragic memory of the Silkair flight that crashed several years back. Singapore Airlines had an impeccable and pristine air safety record until their sister regional airline had a crash. It was later attributed to a pilot going through a difficult marital time who gave into a emotional depressed moment. His family crisis wrecked and brought grief to hundreds of families.
With the disappearance of the Malaysian flight, we are still baffled and are told to expect the worst. The families have been gathered in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur for the last few days, soon a week. Some of them say they can hear their relatives’ phones ringing when they call them.
Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Let us appreciate each day, fill it with work that we enjoy and be with people that we love. What else is there?