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Altered Realities

Oh, it's so good to be back!

My month off from Murderati, though initially unplanned and unexpected, gave me a chance to remember what I like most about blogging -- the communication. It was a strange confluence of events that led to the month of guest blogs, more a mismanagement of the schedule and promises made on my part than anything else, but the enforced break gave me some time to think about what it is I do here. And while I have no idea if it's worth anything to the readers, I know it's incredibly healthy for me as a writer.

Last week was my two-year anniversary as a blogger, and Murderati's second birthday. I can't believe that I didn't realize that until today. Pari and I are the only original Murderati members, but for what it's worth, this blog has become bigger than all of us as individuals. That's an incredible accomplishment. And we have all of you to thank for that. (CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!!!)

I was backing up my blog entries and realized that in those two years, I've written nearly 100,000 words. That's a novel. Of blog entires. Some I'm incredibly proud of, some are just so-so, but there you have it. Two years and 100,000 words of non-fiction. Add in the 320,000 plus words from my novels, throw in a few short stories and I'm pushing half a million words in two years. Not bad for a newbie.

So it's time to get back to what I love best here, the sharing.

I went to my parents two weeks ago, for a visit, and some rest, and some work. It was a great trip, though bookended by strange and horrid experiences. When I landed at Orlando, the idiot who was trying to go to Jamaica with a bomb in his luggage had just been taken into custody, and the arrival lanes were blocked with the bomb squad vehicles. The airport was controlled chaos, packed to the gills with unhappy people. Crazy.

And on the way home, a man died on the plane.

I've debated long and hard about how much of this I want to share, for a couple of reasons. One, I'm still processing what I saw, and how it made me feel. Two, I think the only way to really process it properly is to write about it in a fictional milieu. One of the advantages to have a writing blog is discussing the events that shape our writing, and I've spent the last two years of my life examining myself through these posts. But every once in a while, there's an experience that you want to put into your work, and that's going to have to happen with this one. To do it justice, I'll need to utilize the strength of my alter ego, Taylor, to give it the proper impact. J.T. can't do it without sounding like a bit of a freak. So I'll tell you about what happened, and beg forgiveness for utilizing it in what I'm sure is going to be a very cool chapter in an upcoming book.

We were all buckled in and taxiing out to take off when a flight attendant came on the intercom and asked if there was a doctor or a nurse on the plane. There were two kids a few rows back who were screaming, and I figured one of them got sick or had a little panic attack. Boy, was I wrong. It was an older gentleman, and he was having severe chest pains. The flight attendant repeated the request, and a young woman got up and made her way to the back of the plane. I saw the look on her face as she walked by me -- here we go again, it said.

Remember a few months back when I talked about Taylor being one of those people who would rush into a fiery car crash to help a stranger? I haven't been faced with a life or death situation for many years, since I was a lifeguard in high school and college. Back then, I knew exactly what to do in an emergency. I knew CPR. I still know it, but I haven't had to do it in a long, long while. But for Taylor, you know, that's just second nature. She wouldn't hesitate. She would be the girl who walked down the aisle to help. This Good Samaritan had real medical training, not a few summers by the pool. Thank God she did.

The gentleman was telling the flight attendant that he though he was okay when he went down. Just, boom. Stopped. All halt. The flight attendants were spectacular. They immediately got the defibrillator attached and got a vent going. They shocked him several times, and the Good Samaritan started some very aggressive CPR. I don't know how familiar you guys are with CPR, real live CPR, not the stuff on TV. You push hard, and things break. I was in the aisle about six rows up from all of this, and got a good refresher course. Of course, I've been unable to shake the image of her leaning over him, droplets of sweat flying as she worked, her hands moving so deeply into his chest that she looked like she was hitting his spine...

The plane pulled out of the runway and headed back to the gate, and the paramedics arrived after what seemed like forever. All in all, they worked on him for forty-five minutes. To say it was horrid doesn't even come close. The whispers flew through the plane, the passengers in utter and complete shock. There were a number of children on board, children that couldn't be sheltered from what was happening because of the immediacy of it. There was even the odd boor who surmised that they should get us a new plane, he was going to be late getting home. There's always one person, you know?

I've been on several planes that have had emergency situations. I've made emergency landings, seen a flight attendant smash her head on the ceiling when we hit unanticipated turbulence. I've flown in storms so severe the plane veered sideways, and dropped thousands of feet in a heartbeat. But I've never flown with a ghost.

When they took him from the plane, transferred him to the ambulance, still doing CPR nearly an hour later, I knew he was gone. And I never got a good look at his face, so all I could do, all the way home, was wonder. Did I see him in the airport? I was working in a restaurant, and came late to the gate. Did I see him, and smile at him? Was I so wrapped up in myself that I didn't notice him? Was he happy? Could he have imagined, standing in line, that his last moments were upon him? That in less than fifteen minutes, he'd be dead?

As you can imagine, I've been a little messed up by this. I said many prayers on the way home, and as I sat crying in my seat, pretending I wasn't sniffling, listening to my iPod with every tune strangely about death, I reminded myself that this wasn't about ME. This was about a stranger who quite literally lost everything. A stranger I'll never forget.

I've been thinking about this rather nonstop for the past week, etching the details in my mind so I can do them justice on the page. I've shared with a few friends about some odd happenings on the plane -- the little Indian girl who watched him the whole time, something ageless in her eyes, as if she was his passage to the next world. The moment of sunlight that passed through the plane and left me shaking with cold.

But the most wonderful thing about the experience was the people who rushed to this man's side, who cared enough to try to give him life. I am humbled by their deeds. If I were closer, I would have done the same. Ah, there's the rub. I didn't help. Yes, I prayed, and that's all well and good, but I didn't get out of my seat and go back to see if they needed anything. They didn't need me. I would have been in the way, and I'm not kidding when I say they had things very much under control. But a part of me wishes I had.

Instead, I expressed my thanks and gratitude to the people who did help. They did all they could. I can only hope that if I'm ever in a bad situation, there will be people as selfless around.

Addendum:

The strangest thing has happened. I do my posts in advance, so this one was already written when my mother called me today with the most brilliant news. A letter arrived at the house from the airline. (It was Southwest, by the way, and they were magnificent.) I'm overjoyed to be able to tell you that I was wrong. We were all wrong. My stranger is alive. I'm in such a state of shock. I don't know HOW he could be, but apparently the constant and immediate CPR measures kept enough blood and oxygen pumping that after some heroic work at the hospital, he survived!! Southwest is "helping" his family, I assume in a monetary fashion, and gave each passenger a LUV coupon. LUV indeed. What a glorious day this is!

To celebrate, I suggest you head here and enjoy.

Wine of the Week: I'm not much of a rosé drinker, but we attended a cool wine tasting this past weekend and this bottle was on the menu. Finca Vieja Rosado 2005 It's from La Mancha, Spain, light and fruity, but seriously dry, with berries and pepper in the finish. We fell in love. And think about this, it would make killer sangria. Yum!

Comments
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Welcome back

Hello J.T.

Welcome back, we love reading your blogs here in the office. I am sorry to hear about the harrowing experience on the plane. On a flight back from the midwest I witnessed a gentleman experiencing a massive heart attack. I remember being most impressed with the flight attendants. They were efficient, calm, and collected. One found a passenger who was a doctor. Another fetched the defibrillator, while a third kept the passengers out of the way. After landing an EMT team was swiftly aboard. I gained a whole new respect for flight attendants that day.

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Welcome Back

Thomas, thanks! My first reply seems to have drifted away into the ether. It's good to hear I'm not the only person who has witnessed these incredible people in action. I was so impressed with Southwest -- everyone, flight attendants, pilots, gate agents, airport EMTs, ground staff, everyone, was sharp, did what they needed to do and truly saved this man's life.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

J.T. Ellison