Locating her seat close to the front of the plane, Jojo stowed her carry-on and sank into her tight little space and buckled up. Even before the flight began, Jojo was entertained, as the flight attendant greeted the passengers and dealt with situations with kindness and grace. With a less than full load in the plane, the attendant, Julie, had a bit more time and was very amiable with Jojo. As she offered a soda and snack, Jojo smiled broadly and joked with her; it was fun to banter with Julie in lighthearted fun. Julie went on to serve the other passengers and Jojo lightly closed her eyes, tuning out the sounds and movement of the plane.
Abruptly awakened by the passengers gasping, Jojo looked out her window. There was a plane that circled in a tight formation, close enough that everyone was uneasy. The pilot announced, “As you can see, we have a situation nearby. The plane just to the right of us has been circling for hours and is not under the control of the pilot. We will be able to land safely; we are the last airplane that is being allowed to land until this situation is secured. When we arrive, please follow carefully the instructions of the flight attendant, for the safety of everyone aboard. Thank you. Your safety is our utmost concern.”
Palpable fear hung like far-flung spider webs throughout the plane. Jojo noticed the varied ways people were dealing with the stress, heavy breathing, rocking back and forth within the seats, and lots of cussing, praying, and arguing. On her way down the aisle, Julie leaned over and whispered privately to Jojo, “I know you don’t know me well, but you seem like someone I could talk to. I really need a friend right now. Will you meet me in the first café in the concourse, when we arrive at the airport?”
Jojo whispered back, “Of course, I would be happy to talk with you.” It felt like time slowed down to a crawl, as every aspect of their descent and landing held in its grasp life itself. When the plane finally landed, the passengers were told to get off the plane quickly, for their safety, and all their luggage, carry-on and checked, would be routed to Baggage Return. Everyone complied, with the concern twisting their faces into clumps of confusion and fear. Jojo felt like she couldn’t really breathe, until she arrived in the concourse of the airport. Everyone dispersed quickly, with a massive movement toward the Baggage Return, from all recently-landed planes. Jojo didn’t want to stay in this more vulnerable section of the airport, but she had promised Julie, and she was always committed to her word.
Jojo sat down in an almost empty café and ordered a hot chamomile tea. She needed the calming warmth. She noticed only two others in the café, a large man, who seemed to be quite distressed and the waitress. Julie almost broke down, as she slid into the booth and quickly asked for a diet cola. She could not contain her pain; it spilled out all over the table, in words, tears, and pounding fists on the hard surface.
Julie choked back the sobs. “I learned from the pilot, that the plane was coming from Boston this morning. My sister, her husband, and their children are on that plane! The pilot told us that all of the adults on the plane had been killed and there is no pilot, no one flying the plane. I can’t believe it, my sister and her husband are gone! The plane has been circling, and no one can bring it down safely. My niece and nephew are still there and I don’t even know if they will live!”
Jojo responded compassionately, “Oh my dear friend! I am so very sorry for your loss. This is awful! I will stay with you as long as you need me, until we make sure your niece and nephew are safe. She held Julie’s hands in hers and comforted her, tenderly and sweetly. When the emotions subsided, Julie excused herself to use the restroom.
Jojo ruminated, about the horrible situation occurring right outside. She felt honored to be Julie’s friend. Just then, the distressed man across the isle spoke to her. “I’m so angry; when I get angry, awful things happen.”
That caught Jojo’s attention! Every sense was heightened and yet, she knew the best thing to do is listen. She simply acknowledged his statement and asked him to share a time when something bad happened.
He said gruffly, “Yesterday, I was driving and some dumb old woman wouldn’t get into her car and close the door. I waited and waited and then she exploded, and the door with her!”
For the first time in her life, Jojo saw the scene as he described it. She was incredulous, as it unfolded before her. She saw the lady struggling with her purse, which had gotten caught somehow. She also saw the man, seething in his raging fury, until something burst from him and she exploded. She could feel the recoil of her body flying and his immediate remorse, but then, it quickly subsided and he drove away as if nothing happened.
Jojo gathered about her all the courage she had, forcing herself into a calm response and acceptance of this man’s emotions. Just above a whisper, she said to him, “That is a lot of anger and it is indeed very powerful. Are you willing to tell me what you are angry about today?”
The man shuddered, as if the anger held him under its control. He haltingly broke the silence of his pain, “My wife took my two little children and left me. They are on that plane out there...” he shook his head toward the windows. “I got here first and decided she wouldn’t have them, No Way!”
Jojo realized, with a wave of horror, that this man was the cause of what happened in that plane. His anger not only boiled over and killed his wife, but every adult on that plane. She also realized that his love for his children kept that plane in it place, circling. She had never seen such power expressed from emotions so strong. She continued to talk calmly with this man, giving him value and accepting his emotions as valid. At the same time, she carefully texted 911 and told authorities where she was and about the man with whom she spoke. She asked they come carefully and respectfully, and bring a psychologist with medication to calm his emotions.
As Jojo spoke to the man respectfully, he opened even more of his pain to her. He said, “People have hurt me all my life. My dad beat me, for no reason. No One Will Ever Hurt Me Again!”
Jojo gently calmed him, almost as a loving mother would, “I am so sorry you have been hurt so bad.” She brought him to some semblance of peace. As his distress eased, the plane outside began to descend. Finally, the plane landed, safely, with the strength of this man’s love of his children guiding the controls, without him even thinking about it. Jojo thanked him for sharing with her and assured him the children were safe.
She saw the authorities coming before the man did. The psychologist was able to quickly administer medication before he even had the opportunity to tense up and get angry. His emotions eased and safety returned to the concourse. Jojo felt like she had gone through the wringer.
Slowly, normalcy returned to the airport. The police processed the plane’s awful scene of death. The distraught man was taken to a psychiatric hospital and medicated, for everyone’s safety. The children were brought to the concourse and fed; their extended families were contacted. Julie was reunited with her niece and nephew and Jojo helped them awhile, with their pan and loss. Passengers returned to the concourse to prepare to fly out to their many destinations.
Jojo received an honor from her hometown; many had heard of the calm, professional manner that she had diffused the situation and marveled at her wisdom and courage.