Taking Off

As a fifth grade boy only months away from the start of middle school, I did my best to mask fear from others hoping to appear as the man I so desperately wanted to become. However, when I learned that in only a few months I would be 30,000 feet above the earth’s surface, I could no longer mask one particular anxiety: my fear of heights. I had no problem waiting for my friends to get off rides at theme parks as long as I could keep my two feet on solid ground. I begged my parents to abandon our summer trip to Nashville, or to drive there instead. They were not as willing to take the road as I was, and I had to cope with the fact that soon we’d be taking off.

My parents did their best to convince me of a plane’s safety. They filled my head with statistics of how many more accidents happen on the road as compared to in a plane, but nothing could sway my middle-school hard headedness. I had no desire to gain my wings, and the farther I ventured through security check the more the golden tip of those wings began to stir the butterflies within me. As I walked through the terminal to our gate, I slowly began to imagine every possibility that would somehow assist me in escaping the dreaded fate I was about to partake in. The escape plan turned out to be a failed attempt, and I suddenly found my way journeying down a corridor to the door of the plane.

“Welcome to our airline and thank you for flying with us,” were the words I first heard as I walked on the plane. I could not believe the cheer in the woman’s voice. Did she not realize I was headed to my ultimate demise? My eyes began to wonder at a rapid speed in everything about me. Though I had never been on a plane before, I had seen them many times through media. But there was something significantly different about actually being on one compared to simply seeing one. Every detail was etched into my brain. Whether the dark blue of the seats, the television sets every three rows, or the location of every emergency exit, I was going to be well versed in my surroundings.

I was shocked by my parent’s calmness, and ability to enjoy the experience. I finally broke from my silence to ask, “Are you really not afraid of any of this?”

My mom being the soothing person she is softly replied, “No, sweetheart, there’s nothing to be afraid of, think about the people who fly everyday for their job.” As I walked down the cramped aisle with bags in each hand to seat 21C, I thought about my mother’s words and the flight attendant’s kindness. I finally began to consider the possibility that perhaps I had been overreacting, but I was not entirely sold on their assurance.

Due to our late ticket purchases my parents and I were spread all over the aircraft. I used this opportunity to observe the people around me, and see if I was not the only one struggling with taking flight. On my right was a grey-haired gentleman dressed in sweats and a polo, holding a book of crossword puzzles and clearly at ease with flying. Across the aisle from us were a boy and a girl that appeared to be in elementary school accompanied by their father who seemed to be annoyed by his children’s restlessness. Even this man’s kids were not at all frightened by idea of being amongst the clouds. In fact, they seemed excited about the opportunity, crawling from seat to seat exploring the plane and looking out the window with amazement. As I watched these brave children, my fear began to slowly melt away.

Then over the intercom: “Everyone please take your seats we’re preparing for take off...flight attendants, cross-check.” A frazzled woman finally took the seat next to me and asked if I would like to trade her, so I could sit by the window. “I always enjoyed sitting by the window when I was young,” she said. I accepted her offer, and we buckled our seat belts.

I could feel the plane slowly backing away from the gate, and I finally admitted to the woman, “I’m terrified of heights and at first I was deathly afraid of flying, but I feel better about it now.”

She nodded her head in agreement and said, “I was the same way at your age, but there’s nothing to fear once you’re up in the clouds and you look out the window...you’ll see how magical the experience flying really can be.”

We began to pick up speed, and as I closed my eyes and clinched my fist I felt the plane take off. As we rose I kept the woman’s words in my mind: I was now eager to know for myself if the experience of flying really would become magical.

Category: Airplanes

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