What Went Down on Flight 920

That moment when your whole life flashes before your eyes? It happens.

Nothing could have prepared me for it.

It was a balmy September evening, and like all September evenings in the tropics, the air smelled of a brewing thunderstorm. There were clouds, but I could see the moon. A drizzle smudged the purplish-orange horizon, blending it into the black sky, creating an eerie hue. I decided to keep the window shades up throughout the flight so my eyes could rest on nature’s masterpiece. I strange feeling of nostalgia washed over me as the moon slowly disappeared into a foam of dark-gray clouds. I felt at peace as the Boeing 777 cruised at 37,000 feet toward Hong Kong over the West Philippine Sea without a single turbulence.

Then a terrifying bang shook the fuselage. Like a bomb went off, or as if we hit another plane. A split second after, I saw a big spark of flame from what seemed to come from the engine. Before I could process what was happening, a whiff of intoxicating electrical burn filled the cabin. And that very moment, I was sure we were going down! That very moment, my life flashed before my eyes. Like someone pushed the rewind button in my memory. My mind was infected with absurd reflections and regrets of things I didn’t do, of chances that passed me by, of the endless what-ifs—thoughts reserved only for when life is ending. The signs! The signs were everywhere. We were not supposed to board the plane! And we simply ignored the signs. That’s how many people get into trouble. Not trusting their instincts. The irrational, superstitious, not-so-well-hidden side of me took over.

The plane continued to shake, and flight attendants flocked towards the cockpit, stopping at a window to check outside. Amidst all this flurry, P and I quietly held hands. We looked at each other goodbye. Not a word. Just a silent prayer that it will be over fast. That none of us will feel it. I wanted to say something, but my words felt like shards of glass in my throat. The whole plane was quiet as we awaited our fate.

After the longest ten minutes of my life, the intercom finally buzzed into life.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The aircraft had just been hit by lightning. But nothing to worry about, this aircraft is equipped with safety technology to . . .”

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

I listened to the announcement without interest. I was relieved and thanked God for giving P and I a new lease on life. I promised I will make the most of it. The plane landed uneventfully. The passengers, still recovering from the ordeal, were pensively going through screening, until an American guy commented the person checking our boarding passes looked like St. Peter. I let out a nervous laugh.

Beyond the scanning machines were two escalators. One going up, one going down. I prayed I’d be on the one that would take me to Heaven.

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