My Aero Experience Of The Dana Plane Crash
I was flying out of Abuja on Aero Flight 126. The initial departure time was pushed back by 2 hours to 3:30 pm. I still got to the airport 3 hours early as I typically like to use airport waiting time to do some blogging. I tweeted about a girl twirling around like a ballerina and then wrote for another 2 hours before my flight was called up. As usual everyone rushed to the gate and in less than 30 seconds 2 lines had formed and had already begun wrapping itself around the terminal walls. I noticed a couple of people from the wedding I attended the Saturday before, but did not really know them so I just stayed in line jamming my Tupac Thug Life Album Jamaroquai. We got onto the tarmac and began walking to our airplanes. AERO had 2 planes on the tarmac that afternoon the delayed flight 126, which I was on and flight 128. I got onto the plane and after scrunching a few bags found some space for my hand luggage luggages. I had been assigned the an exit seat 9A and was ecstatic about the extra legroom…so ecstatic that I took a picture of me stretching my legs on the seat and posted it to my blackberry profile. In the middle of my leg stretching exercise one of the flight attendants began waving at me
I thought she was trying to holler so I was fronting to take off my earphones so that I could listen to the exit row instructions. All 6 of us on the exit row had to affirm that we could operate the exit doors and coordinate passengers in a time of an emergency. It was all serious talk, but she ended with a smile saying that not crazy was going to happen. Several seconds later I update my BB status and complain about the long list of exit row instructions I was just given. At that point my blackberry did what it does best…and proceeded to die…I then reclined into my chair and did what I did best and proceeded to sleep…
In my dream I heard the seat belt alarm go off and then I woke up. But nobody was disembarking from the plane, instead they sat on their seats as the airplane door was pulled open. I thought this was some kind of weird prank and I was confused, it was not until I looked out the window and saw the Abuja mountains and the other flight 128 aircraft did I realize that we never departed. I asked the gentleman what had happened and all he said was that the Lagos Airport had been shutdown and the pilot was made to turn around. I assumed that it was because of the MAULAG riots that the airport was shut down. But by then mobile phones from all across the plane had started lighting up as people browsed the internet…people were saying something about a plane crash but it was all confusing I heard Dana and then Ghana. After 10 minutes, passengers from flight 128 started getting off the plane. A few seconds later our flight attendants informed us that we also had to get down. All I could think off was where the heck I was going to find another N15,000 to spend on an Abuja hotel room. As I got off the plane I noticed one of the girls from the wedding…I remember her because during the wedding money spraying she was one of the people collecting the money on the ground. I saw a stray dollar bill and informed her about it she said jokingly that as a gentleman I should pick it up and not point! yikes!
As I got down I saw a different girl from the wedding crying on the tarmac and an older guy consoling her. That is when I knew something crazy had happened. All I could do was stare…until I was bumped into moving out of the way. I got into the terminal and noticed a guy i saw taking pictures at the wedding…I said “hey were you not at the wedding.” And he barely responded, I thought he was being snubbish, then I asked if he heard about the crash and he said “yeah I was just talking to someone that boarded the flight.” That was when I realized that a plane had not only crashed, but that the passengers had just left Abuja and that the reason why we had to turn back was because of the crash. A few seconds after that a lady pops out her tablet and sees the pictures of the crash and everyone surrounds her. At this point I realize that I need to charge my phone and update my status or else people would be worried since my last update was me flying to Abuja. But before I could get to a socket my co-worker calls me and when I answer she just starts screaming for joy. I immediately call my mum on my non-BB phone to tell her that I am OK, but she barely knows what is going on.
I finally manage to charge my phone on and update my status, but by then it is too late…people had already started asking me where I was and what flight I took and all. Some people already I assumed I had died, which was quite scary. After updating my status I just sat down on the airport floor and looked up and the first thing that came to my head was “i could easily have been on that flight.” And that was the first time I teared up. I turned around and saw a bunch of people from the wedding and they were all gathered around and in tears…including the spraying money girl. The flight announcement came up again about 30 minutes later for us to re-board…and this was the first time I saw Nigeria like this, people did not rush to the lines, people were extra cautious to each other, the guys on the tarmac that screen you were wishing people safe flight and trying to cheer everyone up. On the plane people were not fighting to get their bags into the overhead cabins…people were just calm. For a fraction of a few minutes, it was as if I was living in a different Nigeria. The flight attendants did a great job in keeping people calm and upbeat, they acted normal as if nothing had happened.
We took off several minutes later and this time I was wide awake! The plane flew and into Lagos as planned. The flight was one of the longest I had ever been on…I just kept holding my phone and hoping that we landed. Just as we got to lagos, we could see the crash site of the Dana aircraft from the right side of the plane. We got to Lagos and if Abuja was crazy…Lagos was crazier…families were parked at the garage and people were crying and wailing on the floor. One particular woman kept yelling at her friend “why did you change the flight….I never change the flight!” and police officers just keep screaming “hold her hold her.”
In the midst of all the sorrow the one thing that struck me was how respectful everybody was to each other…I guess in a way death brings out the best in many but I just hope we find a way to bring out the best in ourselves and others before death.
RIP Jennifer Onita I saw you…you looked familiar but I never said a word…life is short…
Wishing You Extreme Success,