Before we even got out of bed this morning, while my boyfriend and I were laying side-by-side looking at our phones (as we do every morning while mustering motivation to start the day), Ben said to me, “Any news on the plane?”
I hopped over to The New York Times to assess just as he pulled up the BBC. “It doesn’t look like there’s anything even remotely new to the story,” he reported, disappointed.
From the looks of my Facebook feed, I’m confident we’re not the only ones who check the news at least half a dozen times a day, then return home after work and say to each other, “I can’t believe they STILL haven’t found that plane!”
We all live in a 24-hour-news cycle, for better or for worse, but this story has taken obsession to a new level. It is all-consuming because it’s so terrifying. Most of us fly domestically these days, and many of us fly regularly overseas (over seas, gulp), and hearing this horror story — and worse, not knowing how it turns out — conjures images of our own plane going down, of gripping the arm of a stranger beside us, of [insert your own nightmare here because it’s too disturbing to write].
We can’t help but wonder, did the passengers know they were plunging to their deaths? Since it was a red-eye flight, were they all asleep when it happened? Were the mothers able to hold onto their babies?
Those images are enough to keep us up at night. But they’re not the ones that keep us reading the news. The questions that keep us plugged into every little update revolve instead around a glimmer of hope. Is it possible the passengers are all still floating out on the ocean somewhere in a huge life raft? Or are stranded on a desert island in the middle of nowhere? Typing out those possibilities makes them sound even more absurdly improbable, but until we know what happened to that plane, we will continue to cling to that shred of hope, not just for the 239 passengers, but for their families, and, strangely enough, for ourselves.
This reminds me of something that happened back in 2006, when my family took a week-long vacation in Bermuda. Early in the week, we heard about an explosion that had trapped 13 men in a coal mine, what’s now known as the Sago Mine disaster. Over the next two days — in my memory, it was more like four or five days, but Wikipedia tells me it was just two — we checked the news every chance we got. We watched 24-hour news channels in between trips to the beach, while playing cards at night and before family dinner, hanging onto every minor update about progress in the search and rescue effort. We were supposed to be relaxing, but we could not stop worrying and thinking about those 13 men in the mine and the families that waited for them above ground.
Finally, one evening just before midnight, we heard news that 12 of the 13 miners had been found alive. We rejoiced, and then, relieved, went to bed. We woke up the next morning to find out the reports had been inaccurate, and the reality was much worse: all but one man had died. It was not the happy ending we’d been hoping for.
Now, I’m hoping along with everyone else around the globe that we’ll have a happy ending for #MH370, as it has become known in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Between inconsistencies in reports, the threat of terrorism and how this will affect the relationships of all the nations involved, this has become an even more complicated story — and yet our focus remains on those passengers, on willing them to survive. Even though the chance of a happy ending at this point is slim to none, we will all keep checking the news until we know.