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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Runway Ruminations

by Steven P. Velasquez
Sept. 28, 2013

He sat in seat 11 at the window before the right wing (no pun intended) of the aircraft. The flight attendants smiled and silently illustrated the narrated safety directions.

An American Airlines aircraft was parked beside him awaiting their passengers and cargo while the "Gate Gourmet" trucks fed the craft from the ground below. His plane began to taxi passing "Air India," "Virgin," and one plane with the NY JETS logo on the runway.

He had navigated the roadway beneath the aircraft dozens of times in his mobile intensive care unit, but this time was different, this time he was a passenger and not a paramedic.

As the attendant, who remarkably looked like his daughter Nicolette, gestured to the exits, his eyes welled up with tears and he wasn't quite sure why.

Nicolette Velasquez teaches a CPR class
for the deaf using American Sign Language (ASL)

The plane briskly accelerated and in only a few seconds, effortlessly, or so it seemed, leapt into the sky. The cranes of Port Elizabeth, the New York City skyline, and  the newly completed "Freedom Tower" that now occupies the space where his office once stood, now filled his window, his teary eyes - and his mind.

The world became small, the autos - minute. The Pulaski Skyway, was now a brief mark upon a beautiful, and diminishing, Earth below.

They headed north then banked west. He traded the view of New York's skyline for the true - lines of the sky.

Returning to that tearful moment, he paused and turned his attention inward as his pen furiously marked a notepad before him. The sadness he encountered was at best, transient when juxtaposed against the excitement of lift - and thrust.

He supposed it was a combination of things, his daughter's image, the memory of his office burning, then crumbling, and crushing many of his friends and colleagues. His recent departure from Newark's elite EMS system and the cascade of feelings brought on by no longer being "part of the team." The realization that since 2001 (12 years before), his only exposure to airlines or air travel were during his emergency responses to NYC on 09-11-2001, Weehawken, NJ for what was euphemized as "The Miracle On the Hudson" and countless medical and traumatic emergencies upon such craft.

And now, in shorts, a t-shirt, no badges, radios, police escorts or equipment, he felt an uncommon vulnerability. His enthusiasm for travel was painfully blurred by a myriad of "what if?" scenarios. "What if we crash?" "What if we have a fire?" "What if I never get a chance to see, hold, or kiss my daughters good night again?" His ears painfully popped and in moments, after twenty four hours of work, he fell gently asleep - and he flew.

An hour and a half later, his craft safely kissed the ground in Charlotte, NC. New view. New skyline. New opportunities on the horizon and another chance to kiss his daughters good night.

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