How I Overcame My Fear of Flying After Flying on 9/11

Airescape 3 by Marian Osher © 2010

Airescape 3 by Marian Osher © 2010

GWU Presents Fearless Flying in 2016!

Mixed-Media Paintings and Wall Hangings by Marian Osher on exhibit September 12, 2016 thru January 4, 2017

Reception/Artist’s Talk Thurs., Sept. 15, 2016 6 – 8:30 pm

Free and open to the public. RSVP requested:
https://virginia.gwu.edu/opening-fall-art-exhibits
or call 571-553-5002

My fear of flying developed during several flights to Colorado. Electrical problems, fuel leaking out of an airline before take-off, auxiliary engine failure before flying into a blizzard, and many other “turbulent” experiences escalated my fear.

In early September 2001, there was a terrible thunderstorm when my airplane was about to land at BWI, Baltimore. The airport radar was struck by lightning and the airplane couldn’t land. The storm seemed endless, with lots of lightning. The airplane bounced around in extreme turbulence for an hour and a half.   I thought it was going to be the end, and was very scary. When the airplane finally landed at National Airport in DC with plans to refuel and fly back to BWI. I said, “No way, I am off of this plane.” I took the subway home to Rockville and had a neighbor pick me up.

Four days later, my husband and I took a vacation trip to Holland for a week. The flight to Amsterdam was so uneventful that I began to feel less fearful and more relaxed. After a delightful vacation, we flew home on September 11, 2001. When the pilot announced that east coast airports were closed due to weather problems, I believed him and was relieved that we would avoid another frightening weather flying experience. We learned the truth after we landed in Halifax, Canada, instead of in Philadelphia. The Canadians took wonderful care of us until we were able to return to the US on Friday Sept. 14.

That was my last flight for three years.  I even took a train to Colorado to avoid flying.  But when my son moved to Montana and my daughter moved to San Francisco, I knew that I had to start flying again and it was time to face my fear.

On my first flight, I sat next to a big burly smoke jumper who jumped into forest fires from helicopters, but was afraid of flying in large commercial airplanes. On my next flight, my seatmate was a therapist, a father of two young children, who expressed his fears about flying after 9/11. I thought this was ironic, but realized that I was certainly not alone with this fear.

I have developed several “tools” to help me to deal with my fear. I know that I can not control the outcome of the flight, but I can work on my fears and my attitude about flying. It doesn’t help me to remember that most airplanes don’t crash and that I am safer in an airplane than in a car.  But one helpful “tool” that I do use is when I board the airplane I make eye contact with the pilot, co-pilot or steward and greet them with a friendly smile and a hello. In my head I say to myself “and he/she doesn’t want to die either, so he/she will do the best job that they can to get us to our destinations safely.” Then I go to my seat. I say a silent serenity prayer and ask for my fear to be taken away. I never pray about the outcome. When I land I always say “Earth!” out loud.

The other “tool” in my airplane fear-fighter quiver relates directly to my connection with nature, visual awareness and my art.  I always book a window seat. I am fascinated by the view of the clouds and the earth from the airplane.  Flying across the country during different seasons means that I get to see all kinds of textures, colors and shapes. I get so involved with what I see that I forget to be afraid.

 

 

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