A Christmas Wish
By Devon Leslie
I'm sure everyone would agree that 2003 is by far one of the most signifigant years in our hobby in recent memory. We saw the release of Flight Simulator 2004 and the celebration of 100 years of flight. Most of the press that I've seen is pretty much written in a positive light. Notable names (namely the Wright brothers, of course), notable events in flight like the Chuck Yeager's legendary busting of the sound barrier, and notable aircraft such as the recent retirement of our beloved friend, the Concorde.
In all of this history, we celebrate the achievements of a society that has accomplished such remarkable things in a century, that it is difficult to draw a comparison from history that stirs as much interest and advancement as the 20th century. We are most certainly at the prime of our civilization as we embark on new frontiers in the air, in space and at home on the surface.
So what compels me to write this time? I can tell you that it's not to reiterate all of the things that have been said about aviation already, although I'm certainly happy to have been a part of it. No, unfortunately, what has compelled me to write is tragic in itself and tragic in the memories it has drawn.
I live in a highrise building that is part of a two-building complex. My apartment sits on the 19th floor, opening into a balcony with a beautiful view of the city below. A couple days ago, a young woman in the building next to us, also located on the 19th floor, decided to use her balcony for a different purpose. At 2:00 pm on December 19th, 2003...this young woman leapt from her 19th-floor balcony. Her body was discovered almost immediately and emergency services were notified. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
At first, I was somewhat apathetic of the incident as this type of thing often occurs around Christmas. However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt anger and pity for this woman. I pitied her for feeling so much despair that she would resort to such a dramatic decision, but I was angry at her as well because there were so many children in our complex who wouldn't understand and might be afraid of seeing her body lying on the ground.
I imagined the incident in my head, and I was quickly reminded of the terrible events surrounding September 11th, 2001. Even now, I recall the vivid photos of people jumping from the buildings as they burned below. In a round-about way, this pulls me back to aviation by considering those who have committed suicidal acts without considering the lives of those around them. Even now, I am still angered by those individuals who decided to turn passenger aircraft into weapons and murder thousands of innocent men, women and children.
Although I'm sure Orville and Wilbur Wright would be extremely amazed and proud of how far aviation has come, I know they would be dismayed at the cost of life that their creation has made possible. These men, who decided to accomplish something so pure in ambition and dreams, might not be so proud of the 100th anniversary after considering some of the dramatic events that have occurred over the years.
So, in defense of our progress, I write to the brothers should they be able to read this somehow, and thank them for the contribution to our lives. I make no excuses for the atrocities committed with the tools of aviation, but I promise them that I will always strive to push our passion for the common good of humanity - as they once did. I draw attention to the great things that aviation has brought to our lives, and the positive impact it has made to draw the world closer into a community.
My passion for aviation extends as far as my wish that everyone in the world, most importantly you, the reader - have a safe, and happy holiday. I urge you to remember those who have perished, and I encourage you to celebrate the days ahead with your loved ones and remind them how important they are to you.
Cherish your wealth. Not wealth in terms of money, but wealth in
terms of life.
Be thankful for your health while others are sick and dying.
Be thankful for your loved ones while others return to empty homes in the face of tragedy.
...and most of all, take the time to give that wealth to at least one complete stranger by offering some loose change, a smile or a firm handshake. Let them know that you care about them as fellow human beings. Let them know that they matter and you don't take them for granted.
My pride in my hobby: Aviation...is that I have had the opportunity to meet so many thoughtful, considerate and wonderful people who share my passion for the world of flight. I make my wish here because I know that most of you are of good character and can make a positive difference in this world.
I wish all of you the very best over the holidays. May your wings soar with grace in the heavens, and may your hearts lift the hearts of those who cannot enjoy life as we do: With our head in the clouds.
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