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This Day in History, 1987: Northwest Flight 255

Eighteen years ago today was the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255. The plane was scheduled to fly from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus, Michigan near Detroit to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, with an intermediate stop at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. The flight crashed just after takeoff in Detroit, killing all of the passengers except for a four-year-old girl named Cecelia Cichan, whose parents and younger brother all died in the accident.

I had no personal connection to the flight, but I remember the horrible images on television and on the front pages of the New York City newspapers. I also remember how people referred to the rescue of Ms. Cichan as a miracle. While I have no problem with the idea of her rescue being miraculous, I do remember being upset with a quote from someone saying that God had interceded to rescue her. It seems to me that it's a small step from believing that to asking why God didn't intercede for everyone else on the plane, and I don't think we want to go there.

Ms. Cichan was sent to live with relatives in Alabama, who have done a good job in helping her maintain a private life. Last year, she posted on the Flight 255 Memorial Guestbook that she's doing fine, is willing to talk to family and friends of the crash victims, but doesn't want to be bothered by reporters. I'm glad to hear that she managed to put the tragedy of her early life behind her, and I hope the media respects her wishes for privacy.

Other references:
Wikipedia: Northwest Airlines Flight 255
Wikipedia: Cecelia Cichan


The claim that God should be praised when one person or a few people survive a catastrophe really sicken me. The implication is that God killed everybody else just so he could impress people by leaving one person alive. Of course, it doesn't sound so pious when put that way.
That's exactly the problem I have with it.

I don't mind it if the survivor of an accident himself or herself wishes to thank God; in Judaism, we have a tradition called "benching gomel," which means saying a special blessing if you survive a harrowing experience. (I recited it once after being in a car accident, and once after a medical test.) But when others make the claim like God wanted to save this one person...that bothers me.

That's a huge pet peeve of mine as well. I also hate it when people win a sporting event or a musical award and thank god and talk about how blessed they are. Really, if there is a supreme deity, I'd like to think that s/he's a little too busy managing the big things to have the time to fiddle with someone's musical career.

Re: Giving thanks

Well, you're talking to a rabid ex-Catholic who had all theism spoiled for her by that religion. I'm a big fan of keeping religion private, and ostentatious thanks at sporting events and awards shows feels like religion being pushed down my throat. "Hi, I've found Jesus. Have you found Jesus? Praise Jesus!"

I'm sure I'm reading more into it than they want me to, but that's how it always comes across to me.
There's a cut scene (on the DVD) in the M Night Shamalayan movie "Unbreakable" which I really like. As you may know, the start of the movie is that Bruce Willis's character is the sole survivor (entirely uninjured) of a truly horrific train crash. In a cut scene, after a memorial service for the victims of the crash, he talks to a priest, who basically says, "It's a meaningless coincidence. Look, you want me to tell you that God spared you for some reason? Well, my eight-year-old nephew was on that train with you, his first time travelling alone. . . ."
I think that sometimes people say that God spared someone because they want to give the tragedy meaning. Sadly, though, we do live in a world where meaningless, random tragedies happen. One mark of maturity is the willingness to accept that.
I just think of Marcus from Babylon 5.

"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."


Marcus has an obvious self-esteem problem. :)
Would whoever posted this please identify yourself?
Oops, sorry, I must have been logged out when I posted that.
OK. Since you've identified yourself, I won't delete it.

At Times Like That, I Appreciate Being an Agnostic...

I've heard that kind of crap time and time again. It's luck, sheer luck that sometimes a person survives something that kills many other people.

My mother always mentions that almost everyone my Dad went through basic training with in the Marines was killed in Korea. My Dad lived because he got sick while in the Marines and never left North Carolina. But he had an illness that gets worse when the person who has it is stressed out, so, in a way, he may have saved his OWN life.
Near as I can tell, most of the people who say "God wanted [him/her/them/me] to [survive, avoid] that accident" just plain don't get that they are also saying "God wanted the ones who didn't to die". Even when I've pointed out that implication to people who say such things, it seems to just go in one ear and out the other.

December 2016

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