ARE WE THERE YET!?

My first trip to Jamaica was filled with drama from get go; firstly I had to brave the inclement weather to get to the airport, and upon arrival had to endure the discomfort of getting wet before I got on the plane. Anyways we finally took of en route to Barbados then Antigua, and finally Kingston.  There was little or no drama on the flight to Barbados as the weather cleared up a bit out of Piarco, and the pilot made good time. So far; so good.  Eventually we were on our way to Antigua; a flight that was suppose to last just about 45 minutes or so, that was not the problem.  Here we were about 26 thousand feet above ground and with just under half an hour into the flight suddenly there was no visibility at all, gray and dark were all we saw flashing outside the windows and rain aplenty. Finally after about ten minutes of turbulence and discomforting mutters from my fellow passengers, the pilot made an announcement;  ” ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking, we apologise for the roughness you are currently experiencing, but this is due to reports from the main tower of a tropical depression in the area, if for reasons of visibility we cannot land in Antigua, we have been given a flight plan for San Juan Puerto Rico, and we have enough fuel to make the trip, again we apologise for any discomfort but if you have any requests which we may be of assistance to you please alert the cabin crew, in the meantime sit back relax and we will update you again shortly” HELLO!, MAYBE; just maybe he should have just remained silent, as the sentiments echoing through the cabin was: “we really didn’t need to know all that”. What was quiet unease and gentle mutterings of concern, had now blossomed into a higher octave of what next conversations; suddenly almost everyone had an opinion or two, and sure enough you could feel the tension rising.  As for me, I started to pray thinking if for just a minute or two I could drown out these voices and focus on something positive, all would be well.  Well; along came the voice of the Captain again, this time he informed us that visibility was very poor and he was relying on his instruments and information from the Main Tower; “WHAT! OK, OK let us all relax now”  this is what I thought now somehow as the sound decibel in the cabin notably increased. My friends what I thought and what I was now feeling were miles apart, as the Captain further announced that he was attempting to land in five minutes.  I silently continued my prayer as the plane seemingly lined up for a taxi in, we were now quite disoriented without visibility and I felt like a fish in a bowl with blinders, HE WAS NOT JOKING; sure enough you could feel the altitude drop but no sight except gray and dark. His first attempt failed and as the plane dipped and then raced up into the darkened skies my stomach spoke in a language I could not interpret nor comprehend, by now there was no end of protests and voices of dismay , as the Captain came on the loudspeaker.  He said: ” Ladies and gentlemen we failed at the first attempt, but have been advised that we should try again by the crew in the Main Tower, so please stay in your seats as we attempt to land again shortly”.  What transpired next was a  cacophony of religious utterings the likes of which I’ve never heard in all my life, I heard sounds from a Pujah, Alah’s name rang out several times, and God and Jesus were the stars in mention. It was unbelievable that in one moment of  impending danger, we were all united in prayer, and it did not stop. A woman behind me was the loudest as she prayed like an evangelist, and a sickening feeling came over me as sure enough the pilot again made another attempt to land the plane.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what happened next; yes he failed again, and then I knew what is was like to feel hopeless and lost, you could not imagine the emptiness as suddenly  the entire cabin got silent. You could hear only thoughts and I imagined endless silent confessions. This time the Captain did not speak, but instead the cabin crew were now issuing reminders as to how we were to act in case of an emergency, and how to use our safety jackets and gas masks.  I just wanted to get of the plane.  God in his mercy must have heard all those prayers that went out as finally at the third attempt visibility lifted just enough for a perfect landing.  For a minute or so I was deaf with the roars and whistles that went up in the cabin, the same voices were now united again in praise of the pilot and his skills for a successful landing.  Later as we were on our way to Jamaica; blue skies and all, we were informed of two things; 1. The landing had to be precise because the airport is located between two pieces of mountains on either side, and 2. The then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday was on board and was scheduled to be at a Caricom Conference in Antigua; sorry folks the plane just had to land.

 

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