By Gabriella Fleischman

April 2, 2011: Southwest flight 812, carrying 118 passengers from Phoenix to Sacramento, was at 36,000 feet in altitude when a five-foot long tear opened in the roof of the cabin. The oxygen masks dropped in front of the passengers, who described the sound of the tear opening as “gunshot-like,” and said that “looking up, they could see the sky through the torn cabin roof” ( The plane made a fast, controlled drop from
36,000 to 11,000 feet and landed in Yuma, Arizona, 40 minutes after takeoff. Aside from one flight attendant who received minor injuries, none of the passengers were injured.
April 3, 2011: Although I wasn’t terrified,
I felt an unfamiliar sense of anxiety as I walked through the boarding bridge to the airplane. I’d never felt nervous traveling by plane and, in fact, usually calmly enjoyed it: the systematic way that moving cars and plots of lands looked from a distance, the interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds, the rush that came while ascending off the runway and accelerating into the sky.
But during this ascension, I felt my heart quicken and my stomach tighten. The subtle tension in the pit of my muscles lessened the higher the plane rose into the night sky. However, it took only slight turbulence to reawaken the tension tickling savagely at my calmness.
The incident that had happened the day before had very little of a direct impact on me: my flight was only delayed half an hour due to ensuing inspections, and the reason I was nervous wasn’t because my flight was also Southwest.
I was only nervous because I was forced to test my luck against a freak accident a day after one occurred.
We test our luck against a freak accident every time we step into a car, cross a street, or even go outside. It is only directly after significant accidents that we take extra care to stop completely at stop signs, look before crossing a street, or protect ourselves against detrimental weather.
Yet, although taking precautions to ensure as much safety as possible is necessary, whether or not we will be the one to fall victim to an accident is beyond our control. Worrying over the possibilities will leave us frazzled and paranoid.
I averted my mind from the previous day’s incident and enjoyed the slight turbulence and the rough, abrupt landing.
I reveled in the sight of the Bay Area lit up at night and the inky black water of the San Francisco Bay that blended in with the sky; I savored the honey-roasted peanuts handed to me by a flight attendant and the company of my friends.
While everyone has virtually equal chances of being involved in an accident, nothing can be done until it occurs. In the meantime, the quality of life should not be reduced to make room for fruitless worrying.