Chapter 3

It was four hours before any rescuers arrived at the crash. The plane went down high and deep in the mountains. There was no way to get vehicles up there. There were helicopters circling almost immediately, but I am sure to them it looked like everything was dead, and that there was no need to rush down, risking their own lives to look for survivors. That was how it looked to me and that is how I would have behaved.. By the time the first rescuers arrived on the mountainside one could barely make out the outline of the plane, and what there was, was twisted black and smoldering. I sat there for those four hours, sitting legs-crossed on the hiking trail and stared into it , watching what there was become less and less. I became tired, and curled up with my head resting on the seat back. I was roused by a very stunned group of Venezuelan paramedics and firefighters. I don’t remember a thought that ran through my head in that four hours.

I have a tendency to have very wide eyes. I am amazed by just about everything, even things I have seen countless times. I also don’t talk much, except when around those that I find comfortable. My behavior at the crash was no different. Perhaps more acute, but no different. The rescuers took this as a clear sign of shock. Logical, I suppose. But I was all there. From when they woke me up I was amazed by all that I saw. If you have never seen a horrific disaster, and you can find a way to orchestrate one where no one gets hurt, I highly recommend checking it out. The shear destruction that a plane causes when hitting anything other than a runway is remarkable. Hundred foot trees, deep and thick underbrush are clear-cut as if with a giant sheath. The slope of that sharp mountain was even leveled a bit. And all the people. In bright florescent uniforms with jobs to do, that although they have trained for them endless hours, seem woefully unprepared. Running in every direction, carrying hose and axe and whatever. It is a riot. But then your eyes adjust, like minutes after walking out into a bright, sunny day, and you see everyone knows their parts. It’s a dance. A play. The smoldering carcass of the plane is washed down, making it safe to enter. Trees dangling dangerously upon cracked trunks are roped and cut down safely . Bodies and body parts are marked at landing and gathered up for a count. Photos are taken. Thousands. This sort of thing must be understood. And I was not in shock, I was just watching what was going on. Those people whose job was me, asked me how I was, ?como esta? Are you okay? “Bien. I am fine,” I said quietly. Their same question continued and my answer always the same. Shock, for sure. Then, as I was being whisked anxiously to a helicopter to get me down for medical care that I did not need, we went by close to the plane, and for the first time I thought and then I said, “My friends are dead. Mis amigos estan muerte.” And they all stopped. You could almost here the music playing. Tears entered their eyes, and you could feel their mix of pain and pity. But my words did not have such meaning behind them. They were just words. To me, my tone was matter-of-fact. Admittedly, it was odd that I just noticed, but I was just pointing something out, making an observation. But I was a hurt animal to them, a lost child, and after that pause we kept moving no one saying anything. They would be happy to hand off their job to the people waiting in the helicopter.