Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. —Leonardo da Vinci
“Flight 275 to West Palm Beach is now boarding,” said the tired woman’s voice over the intercom. My twin sister and I were just 12-years-old and were flying for our first time to visit my Spanish grandma Ellie. I remember I was shaking so intensely that I was barely able to grab my red and pink paisley carry-on bag. All I could think was that the plane was going to crash, that there was a terrorist on board, or that a freak storm was going to knock us out of the air.
My twin, Katie, had to practically drag me through the walkway bridge to the plane. Everything seemed too big, too cold, too shiny, too metal, and even the people seemed too nice.
Katie turned and said, “Quit being a pansy, nothing is going to happen.” When we turned the last corner, the door to the plane appeared and my heart started beating so hard that I thought everyone could see trying to escape out of my shirt.
As we got closer, my breathing started to speed up and I broke out in a sweat. Why did my parents make me get on this death trap! I finally took a shaky step inside the metal murder machine. The flight attendants greeted me with warm smiles and assuring gestures: “Welcome aboard American Airlines.” They almost seemed a little too smug to me.
As I trudged my way down the narrow aisle, all the way back to row 58, seat D, I passed an immense variety of people: a large African-American man who looked like he could be a linebacker for the Cowboys nearly took up a whole row of seats; a Latino family took up two rows and were bickering about suitcases in a language I couldn’t understand; and, a woman in a long, red chiffon dress sat calmly reading a book in a row next to a robust couple wearing matching palm tree shirts. The aisle seemed to go on forever and I had to keep stopping to let people put their bags in overheard compartments. When I finally saw my row, I chucked my bag in the overhead compartment as fast as I could, flew into my window seat, and buckled up. Katie did the same at a much slower speed than me. Then she serenely sat down and pulled out a magazine from the pouch of the seat in front of her.
Twenty-five agonizing minutes later, the co-pilot came on the intercom: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us on American Airlines. We should be arriving in West Palm Beach as scheduled.” He went on to talk about the weather in Florida, and then a flight attendant went over safety instructions in English as well as Spanish. As the plane started to move, I silently prayed to God that if he let me live I would never lie to my parents and would do all the chores they asked me to do for the rest of my life, amen. My grip tightened on the armrests as we started to pick up speed. This is it, I thought, we’re not going to lift off the ground and go sailing through the fence and into some building.
At a speed close to 500 mph, I started to feel the 500,000 pounds of metal, gas, luggage, and people slowly start to elevate off the runway. I squeezed my eyes shut until we finally flattened out. When I opened them, I couldn’t look away from the back of the seat in front of me. I was sure if I looked out the window and saw the tremendous height we were at, I would surely throw up the sonic chili dog I had just eaten.
Meanwhile, Katie was staring out the window with the most awed look on her face. “Look Kel! Everything is so tiny!”
But it felt like there was a barrier between my head and the window. Finally I started to turn to my right. At first, I couldn’t tell what I was looking at, but then I could see for miles and miles, tall grey skyscrapers with the sun reflecting off them, interstates, suburbs, baseball diamonds, football fields, and eventually lush green farmland—all from a bird’s eye view. Beautiful.
For the first time, I began to relax and breathe normally. I couldn’t stop looking out that little window at the world beneath me. I couldn’t help thinking God was lucky that he got to see this all the time. Everything looked so innocent and perfect from 30,000 feet up. My favorite part was when the clouds appeared beneath us. I imagined that angels were lying on top of the clouds and now we were higher than them. And so the view was worth all the fear. Two and half hours later we descended into the Palm Beach International Airport. I was actually a little depressed that it was over so quickly.
Even now when I see planes, I think how I felt that day—like an eagle, near weightless, soaring through the sky, able to see everything. How the world looks calm and beautiful from on high.