I believe in ghosts, soul ghosts whose invisible aura sets me apart like DNA. I
believe every person houses a unique spirit, or, as Merriam Webster explains, “a seat of
life or intelligence.” When I am aware, I recognize more than the physical presence of
other people. I know there is a spirit, a ghost – the breath of God.
I woke up to a ringing telephone on February 13, 2009. It was my mother.
“Good,” she said. “Your home. Stacie called. There was a plane crash in Buffalo. Mark
wasn’t on it.”
The night before, I was delayed in the Newark airport for more than four hours
due to high winds, the same night Continental Flight 3407 crashed. A storm system,
traveling east, produced wind gusts reaching 59 mph. As I sat in the last seat of US
Airways Flight 2621, waiting to take off from the only runway open to incoming and
outbound flights, the sway of the plane, and the bowing wing tips, caused me to pray –
for myself, for my fellow passengers, and for the crew.
“Can you feel that wind?” the young flight attendant asked.
“Yes” I said.
I had just called my husband to explain that I would be late and would probably
miss my connection in Charlotte.
“I love you,” I said before powering off my phone.
In small ways, I had reached out to many of my loved ones by email or phone
calls over the last few days. Now, from seat 22D, I made an act of contrition, sorry for
not offering to help the little girl pouring cranberry juice that morning at the breakfast
bar. Glad that I offered my cell to a woman whose calling card would not work at an
airport payphone. I reflected on a day of successes and missteps.
What could I have done better? Did I make a difference in anyone’s life as I
moved through the hours? Did I recognize the spirit in the receptionist, in the fellow
pumping gas, or in the washroom attendant? Did I sit beside someone on the shuttle, or
move through security with a person destined for Flight 3407? Walking ghosts. Spirits
who in a matter of minutes would move from the earth, to the sky, to the earth again –
heavy in ice- before entering heaven.
I believe in ghosts. They are all around me. How I choose to greet your spirit,
make eye contact with your soul, speak to your intelligence, or share the air between us,
matters. I may never have another chance to touch or be touched by you, and I forget
On Friday, as I waited in the barbershop, I watched televised pictures of the blaze
resulting from the ill-fated meeting of aircraft and home. I told the men in the shop I was
in Newark last night, and a guy in the chair said, “That plane must have been just behind
yours.” I believe it was. I felt the ghosts.
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