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Black Box

It was a lengthy layover and many of the passengers on my flight were stretched out on the airport floor sleeping. I was dreading the million hours it would take to get from Anchorage to Soul in the cramped quarters of the coach section of the airliner.

I’m not a very good traveler. I’ll admit it—I get claustrophobic when I’m elbow to elbow with a bunch of strangers and no escape route. We had left our five children with my mother and my anxiety was at an all-time high. They called us to board and I drug my feet onto the plane and settled into my assigned middle seat. More and more passengers filed in, dashing my hopes of a little extra breathing room.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your patience. We have an unexpectedly full flight…” This was going to be miserable. Word soon spread that many unscheduled passengers had slept through their call to board a sister flight that had left about 20 minutes earlier. Every seat was taken and the luggage compartments were bulging.

I was wrong about the flight being miserable. It was hell. By the time we landed everyone was exhausted and cranky. As we walked through the airport a tangible sense of foreboding filled the corridors. We became aware of unusual activity ranging from confused, tear-streaked faces to the overwhelming joy of loved ones reunited. Finally, the buzz around us established that Korean Airline Flight 007 had not arrived as scheduled before us. It took days for us to find out that after accidentally veering into Russian airspace, it had been shot down, killing all 269 people aboard.

It was a chilling experience for everyone on our flight and probably for everyone on KAL 007 as well. So you see, it hits close to home whenever I hear of another mysterious airline disaster. Knowing the details of the crash becomes very personal not only for loved ones but for the world.

Which brings me to the black box. It seems they are always searching for the black box that will give them details of the last moments in the cockpit. Although I’m not an engineer, and don’t even play one on TV, I have a few suggestions. For example, why is it black? Black is a hard color to spot in a deep dark ocean. What if it were equipped with a light beacon that flashed upward into space? At the very least, couldn’t there be buoys that implode upon impact that keep the black box afloat? Another thing, if the black box is so indestructible, why don’t they build the whole damn plane out of it? I’m just saying.

September 1, 1983 was a day many lives were changed forever. With a stroke of luck—or perhaps there was much more to it than that—some people died and others lived. Every time I hear about the search for a black box I remember that day.