Frozen with Fear
Frozen with Fear…. every cell in my body seemed to stop except the pounding of my heart, which I heard amplified in my brain. The pounding continued as I watched in utter horror as the plane seemed to stop in mid air with the engine sputtering and straining to make the climb. Instinctively, I reached out and grabbed the bible off the picnic table and clutched it to my chest as I forced my mouth to cry out the name of Jesus. “Lord, Please don’t let my son die”!
Only an hour before, we had been talking about his first solo flight. He was excited about getting back up there and feeling the power of complete control. No Instructor, just him and the plane. At 16 and still without a drivers license, this was his way of experiencing the freedom of the road.
After watching a few successful landings, I decided to run to the local convenience store for a sweet tea and then returned with Bible in hand to watch from a picnic table outside of the terminal.
I had been watching him fly for months and had been there to see his first solo landings. He seemed to be a natural, always in complete control and never foolish enough to take undue risks. His Instructor, Mark Henley, was one of the best stunt pilots in the Country and came from a long line of Pilots. He and his sons had all started flying in their mid-teens and he had reassured me that Billy was more than ready to take the helm for Solo Flights. None of that mattered in those horrifying moments as the plane continued to struggle to stay aloft.
Finally, I forced my legs to move and ran inside the control room. “There’s something wrong with Billy’s plane I screamed”. Several men stared at me with a blank expression that faded slowly into laughter. “There’s something wrong with the plane, Radio Billy and tell him to land …NOW!” I screamed again. Why weren’t they rushing to get the emergency equipment out on the tarmac and why were they just standing there, while the most important person in the world was in danger. Tears were beginning to fall and the fear was becoming overwhelming. I guess some compassion must have welled up in the men as they saw my tears, because they finally stopped laughing. “Where’s Mark, he needs to talk Billy down” I blubbered to the nearest man.
“Marks in the plane with Billy”, he said as he guided me over to the radio. “Listen, you can hear him on the radio”. I caught my breath, held back the tears and stopped to hear my son’s voice calling out runway data, as he circled and prepared for another landing. “But, I heard the planes engine sputter and it looked like they were coming down and Billy was suppose to be flying solo”.
It turns out that one of the things Mark stresses in his training is emergency landings and take-offs and as my son later informed me… they were practicing what to do if a cow is on the runway and you have to take off early. I think they should have called it..”how to give Billy’s mother a heart attack”.