The passengers aboard the 767 knew all was not well when the captain began to speak over the PA. “Folks, the left engine has failed, but there is good news, we still have another engine that's perfectly capable of sustaining flight. The bad news however is…. how shall I say it..., aah...., well its acting a little sick. The First Officer and I are gonna come up with a plan of action right away, and then we’ll be on our way to a diversion airport.”
After a few moments: “Folks, your Captain speaking, the best plan is to to continue on our present course which will take us to Salt Lake City, it’s the closest airport.”
Feeling a little better the passengers began to relax until another voice came over the PA: “Hi folks, this is the First Officer speaking, I must inform you that I do not agree with the Captain concerning Salt Lake, but I think Sacramento is a much better option. Considering the winds aloft right now, Sacramento is actually a little closer, and is not surrounded by mountains, so we’re going to turn around and head for Sacramento.”
Needless to say this did nothing to ease the passengers’ fears. They were looking around nervously when the PA came to life again. “Folks, your Captain again. I have twice the experience of this First Officer, and I must say that on one account the First Officer is right, Sacramento is not surrounded by mountains, but he has failed to inform you that between us and that airport is the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, the largest and highest range in the contiguous US. On one engine we are not assured that we can even clear that range, so we will be continuing on to Salt Lake!”
As the aircraft began to turn back yet again the passengers were filled with terror. As they looked frightfully toward the faces of their flight attendants for some assurance the PA came to life yet again. Folks, the First Officer again, I’m telling you right now that if we try to make it into Salt Lake, our chances for survival are slim. The Captain’s right about the Navadas, but what he’s not considering is our current decent rate on one engine. We’ll be well clear of those mountains before we’re forced down to an altitude below that which would preclude our crossing. Once past them, we’ll be in a much better position, and will have many more options.”
The airplane rocked back and forth a couple of times as if the two pilots were fighting over the controls, when suddenly the remaining engine coughed and blew long flames out of the tail pipe. At this point the PA began to blare again. “Folks, your Captain again, I’ve given you my thoughts on the matter, and the F. O. has given his. Since we are in total disagreement we have adjusted our course dew north so as not to distance ourselves from either option while we take a vote from you all. The flight attendants will pass out a piece of paper to everyone and on it you are to write either Salt Lake or Sacramento.” As the Captain finished this announcement, the remaining engine gave a large yawning sound, coughed and belched black smoke and fire. The cabin deteriorated into complete chaos, which the flight attendants had to quell before taking the vote.
Most of the passengers knew nothing about airplanes, and the ones that did knew very little. As the attendants passed out the papers, there began a debate in the cabin between those that had at least some knowledge of flying, although the trustworthiness and extent of their knowledge remained in question. The debate soon escalated into a shouting match, which delayed the vote even further. Shouts like: “Those who think we should go to Salt Lake are causing disunity!” and “Everyone vote for the co-pilot, he looked more intelligent” and “how could the government allow this to happen?” and still yet, "on a matter this important there should be a super majority!" could be heard above the fray. One person even said in a fatalistic and passive tone, “it’s all a conspiracy”. Which given a more peaceful setting would have begged the question “to what end were the conspirators conspiring?"
As if there were not enough problems, what with the fighting, screaming and crying, smoke began to fill the cabin.
This is how I feel as an American after 9/11.
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