In Laurence Gonzales’ Flight 232, he writes about a flight attendant who realized the plane she was flying on was going to crash. She was in charge of the cabin, and she determined not to allow the passengers to see her fear, so no one would panic. She stepped out of the cockpit with that fresh, horrific news, and thought, Oh please, God, let me be somewhere else.
My ten-year-old daughter can be fearless at times, but I don’t think that’s courage, per se. This woman in the plane had knowledge, coupled with steely nerves. When we most need to draw on our courage, I think, is often where we least want to. It’s one thing to dive into a creative or athletic adventure with aplomb and spunk, but a whole other circumstance to override terror and uncertainty, to push through a scenario with grace, when every instinct in your body longs to run.
I think of my young daughter as practicing and cultivating that force of courage. Surely such action as this woman’s didn’t arise unexpectedly. I can’t help but wonder if the way she lived her whole life primed her for that moment.
She walked down the aisle, pale and shaken and almost in a stupor of fear and grief. She felt grief, she later said, for all the people, the children. “I couldn’t look at anybody,” she said. “It’s like I just withdrew into myself, because I was working a plan, and I didn’t want anybody to read the absolute terror in my eyes….”
–– Laurence Gonzales, Flight 232