Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Close to Home

I'm not sure if you heard (you know you might have been under a rock - especially if you were in the Hampton Roads area) but a Navy jet crashed last Friday.

{It made national news, so if you haven't heard about it, and don't know how to google, here is an article from the Chicago Tribune and one from the Los Angeles Times and some photos as well. The national articles are a bit more succinct than the local ones which go into the many vast and differing opinions and personal stories that go along with the crash. }

Now, why am I writing about this crash? Because folks, that plane happened to be part of my husband's squadron at Oceana.


On Friday, I was running around doing some last minute things to prepare for Easter weekend. We had a busy one ahead of us, I was cooking dinner for 14 on Sunday and was making plans. I also still had to get to the mall Easter Bunny to get the obligatory, over-priced first Easter Bunny photo.

As is often the case, the morning had been so busy and jam packed that I had not turned on the TV, had not heard a news break, and even when I got into the car, for a moment, I preferred silence over the radio.

While at a particularly long stoplight outside the base, on my way to the Exchange, I saw the "New Email" alert flash on my phone. I clicked the icon, thinking I would see a new Michael's coupon or Nordstrom sale coming my way.

Instead the title read "VA-106 Mishap."

From the commanding officer of VA-106.

This is the kind of moment that all military spouses and families keep in the very back of their minds as a possibility, but that you hope against all hope that will never happen to you. Immediately your mind floods with the worst possible scenarios, and dread fills your every fiber of being. At the same time you cannot keep yourself from eagerly reading on, scanning as quickly as possible, to try and reach that fragment that says you are not actually going to have to process those emotions fully.

This time, at least.

As I read, I saw that a plane had crashed and that it was already being widely reported by local news outlets. I

 think I have explained in the past - my husband is a Supply Officer, which means I knew with almost 100% certainty that he had not been in the plane, though he is always jokingly talking about "hitching a ride."

Danger one, averted. Insert sigh of relief.

I continued to devour the email wondering, where had the plane crashed? Was it on base? As I saw that it had crashed "off the highway" (as everyone was still reporting that early on) I have to admit that I breathed another sigh of relief. The chances that my husband was anywhere near the crash site were that much more diminished. And in that split second I was selfish enough to think only of our little family unit and his safety. The email also said that both pilots had ejected and were seemingly fine, but were headed to the hospital for observation.

I clicked off the email, pulled my car into a nearby parking lot and called my husband.

He picked up on the second ring.

"Hi babe, don't worry, I am fine."
"Thank God, what the hell happened?"
"We don't really know yet, we are working on getting details."
"I can't believe this! Thank God the pilots are ok. Where did the plane go down?"
"Babe, we think it hit an apartment complex."

Again, I felt my body tense up and fill with dread. An apartment complex? Good God, I thought, all the people who live there...

"Oh my God."
"I know. Listen, babe, I gotta run, things are crazy here. I will try to call later. Love you."

I pulled my car back out onto the road and glanced at my sleeping baby in the back seat. I scanned through radio stations trying to get an update, fearing the inevitable announcement.

There had to have been casualties.

The plane hit an apartment complex. Not just a house or someone's backyard or a random field, a complex. That meant a denser population of people and a heightened chance that someone was in that area.

I spent the rest of my day listening to mixed reports and jumble analyses of the situation as I jumped in and out of the car. But the one take away? Seemingly, no one had been home. The media began bandying about the term "Good Friday Miracle". As I hopped in the car and finally headed home from my long day of running around, I pulled up to another stoplight. The radio confirmed that all but three people had been accounted for, but those people had not been reported missing, and that it looked like no one had died, and the only hospitalized injuries were minor.

I felt my shoulders droop a bit from the tension that had been in them since I first saw the email that morning, and - I lost it. I didn't even know it was coming until I felt the hot flood of tears hitting my cheeks. I was so, so thankful and relieved.

When I got home, A was already there, inside the house. As I walked in the door, he stood up and came over to give the baby and I a hug. We just stood there looking at each other for a moment, and we both thought about how close to this we were, and the unknowable future.

And then, well then, we went about our normal routine.


We both grew up military, and proud of our family's service. I am fiercely proud of the job that my husband does, and the fact that to him, it is indeed a calling of service - not just a paycheck. But every now and again you get the little gut checks that remind you that life is indeed short, and that the military is by definition, a high risk environment.

I am so proud of the Hampton Roads area and people who came together to respond to this situation. Military and civilian alike. I am very thankful for the way this situation turned out in terms of injuries and casualties, though my heart goes out to the families who lost their homes and treasured things that cannot be replaced.

As we go on in the recovery from this accident, I hope that we can continue to come together in a plan that will continue to reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again, heaven forbid, with a larger cost. But, I also hope that we all remember how we probably hugged our kids a little tighter, snuggled our dogs a little closer and kissed our partners a little longer on days like this.

Evelyn Rae is a day away from nine months old

...and I am pretty certain that she got some extra hugs and kisses from her daddy this weekend.

1 comment:

  1. i totally understand how you feel/felt! that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see those words is the worst, but it's great when you know your husband is safe and everyone else is too! my husband's squadron had a mishap a couple years ago now and it was so hard - thankfully everyone lived from that too :-) oh the life of a military wife!! so glad it ended well, considering!!