Southwest Flight 812: Final reflections and photos

Seven days ago right about now, I was headed to the airport to board Southwest Flight 812. What a difference a week makes.

That a hole burst through our airplane causing an explosive decompression and emergency landing still doesn’t quite compute. It doesn’t seem real. I’ve written a lot, jabbered a lot and spent a lot of time thinking and remembering and stewing and crying and thinking some more. A customer service manager from Southwest called yesterday to check in on me and personally apologize on behalf of the company. With that phone call, I’m hoping to get some closure on this event and get back to my real life. The one filled with undone work and piles of papers to read. (Yes, despite the blogging and tweeting and media interviews, I do have a day job!) To that end, I’m reviewing my photos (MY photos, by the way. I have not sold or licensed them to anyone despite whatever flying copyright signs you see out there in the media.) and hope to get back to normally scheduled blog drivel soon!

Contrary to some beliefs, I was not snapping photos with the plane pointing toward the ground! (I was praying like mad and holding my seatmate, Gary’s, hand.) At this point, we are still in the air but are leveled off to 10,000 feet or below, oxygen masks no longer required.
Speaking of… You know you’ve been in grad school too long when you think about the heteronormative implications of exclusively white male pictures on oxygen masks circa 1995.
See, I wasn’t the only one shooting pictures. Ah hem.
Despite the rapid descent, I felt relative calm because we had both engines, and the flight was controlled. Thankfully (and surprisingly given our hot desert locale), we did not hit much turbulence.
I was chagrined to find that my oxygen bag did not, in fact, inflate although oxygen was indeed flowing.
From my seat, all I knew was that a panel had come down from the ceiling. My seatmate, however, could see sky. No good!
Descending into Yuma, AZ. I’ve always wanted to visit Yuma although not under such dramatic circumstances!
Lots of green for the desert.
Don’t tell, but Gary *really* wanted to keep this as a souvenir. Had TSA missed a pocket knife, I’m pretty sure these would be on ebay by now.
LAND! We totally clapped and cheered. You probably can’t tell, but that guy’s vest says “crash rescue” which I found a bit disconcerting.
Landing at an active military base was strange indeed. I may have been in the minority of passengers who thought it was totally RAD to see fighter and carrier jets taking off.
Firetrucks greeted us, just in case.
At one point our flight attendant warned us that we might have to leave our carry-ons and evacuate via slide. Luckily, this was not the case.
I did learn a hot tip for slide evacuations though… stuff any must-have items e.g. purse, keys, wallets down your shirt since they won’t let you carry anything apparently.
Even though I know it’s protocol, I wanted them to call off the firetrucks.
Our fabulous pilot inspects the damage after landing.
Later, before we deplaned, they strapped that panel back in place with duct tape. Classy.
Throughout the entire ordeal, people were surprisingly calm and mellow.
We laughed, told stories, joked about being the luckiest people on the planet.
I apologized for smart-ass Twitter comments and praised the lord that I did NOT sit in row 7.
We sat on the plane for approximately two and a half hours waiting for the new plane to arrive.
Marines and police inspect the damage.
It got pretty toasty in the plane, in the 90s, I’d guess.
Apparently this crew of Marines had already taken care of an emergency landing earlier in the day. Obviously not commercial, of course!
I asked the pilot what it was like to land the plane and if the hole influenced his ability to fly. He indicated that flying and landing felt completely normal from the cockpit.
Along with the new plane, Southwest flew in a whole ground crew from Phoenix (not pictured here) to move luggage, etc. A couple ground crew folks helped serve peanuts on the plane and as Jon Stewart’s crew quipped, they WERE the best peanuts I’ve ever tasted!
Our pilot was happy to speak with people and walked the aisles.
Le hole.

One of the reasons I’m thankful to our Southwest crew is for their humor. After the event, they were kind and joked with us. In fact, the new crew on the plane to Sacramento was quite comical, especially while giving the second safety briefing. There was significant laughter during the “we do not anticipate a change in cabin pressure” section, let me tell you.

Thanks to everyone who has kept up with this blog and offered thoughtful comments. It’s been the strangest week of my life and I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things soon. (And by that, I also mean back to posting less dramatic randomness and recipes.)

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to be thankful for life. Much love to all of you. Please give a squeeze to you and yours.


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