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"HEAD DOWN, STAY DOWN!!! HEAD DOWN, STAY DOWN!!!"

The flight attendant bellowed to myself and the other passengers on US Airways flight 4177 on Jan. 28th 2003. The fear was evident in his eyes as we made our third and final attempt at landing in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were going down, one way or another.

I have flown in airplanes on a regular basis since I was seven years old. I have experienced tremendous turbulence, dropped out of the sky caught in an air pocket, even flown through a major electrical storm, but never, ever have I felt as if these were my last moments until that day.

I knew there was a problem when we were about 100 feet above the runway and started ascending sharply instead of landing. As the plane leveled out and began a holding pattern over the Charlotte airport, the flight attendant explained that there was a minor technical difficulty that needed further attention before we could attempt to land. The pilots would try to fix it while in flight rather than risk a landing with the malfunction.

Deep breath... exhale... there is nothing to worry about, I mean, only other people die in plane crashes...

After fifteen minutes of nerve-racking silence, constantly leaning to one side in the circular hold pattern, we are assured that the pilots were able to fix the problem and so we will now be landing in Charlotte.

HOORAY!

As we approach solid ground and I imagine I can just about feel the pressure of the wheels touching down, my stomach lurches as we rise again.

I shall not allow my emotional centre to run away with me. I shall remain calm.

The flight attendant addressed us once more, however the quiver in his voice is definitely new. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the problem has returned. The pilots have informed me that the landing gear is not locking into position. We will be making an emergency landing and I need to review emergency protocol with you now."

I hear the woman behind me begin to sob. I realize that I may only have a few moments now to make peace with myself and the world. I focus my energy, become aware of myself becoming truly alive within meditation. I remember my beliefs; that this, if it is to be the moment of my death, will simply be a transition from one plane of existence to another. But... OH... that I did not get to see that blond, curly haired baby with the sparkling blue eyes that would have been ours. I must drive those thoughts from my head. I will make this transition smoothly.

Distantly, I hear the flight attendant explain escape routes and proper emergency landing positions. The sobbing has now permeated the small Dornier 328 Turboprop airplane.

I am ready.

We now approach the runway for the last time, this was the moment of truth.

"BRACE! BRACE!"

Hugging my knees I remember myself, I pray, I accept the transition and in the moment that I realize that I fully understand how lucky I was for having this life at all, I feel the wheels touchdown...

AND HOLD!!

Triumphant, Jubilant, Cacophony of Joy!

I live to see another day, my purpose has yet to be fulfilled.

I love you.

Written for Iceowl's Adventure Quest.

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