When you’re about to die is the only time that you can truly be honest with yourself. Every day you tell yourself little lies, trying to trick yourself into believing them because you know it’s what you should think. But when you’re about to die, you realize that there’s no point anymore. You can just be honest.
This fact dawned upon me as soon as I saw the rounds pop through the plane’s fuselage and out the other side, and felt the world fall away beneath me. I was no longer looking at the other planes in our wing flying in formation behind us, but rather up into a cloudless dawn sky. My mind afforded me a brief moment of utter panic – a moment of hope for my survival, a hope that year twenty would not be my last – before realizing that the situation I was in was hopeless. There was no point to panicking, I was dead no matter what. It was then that everything that I had buried deep inside my mind and forgot about, or intentionally ignored – memories, emotions, the truths of my life – came rushing back to me. My body was quickly trying to make peace with all the unresolved issues suppressed in my mind: the sad truth that I had never truly gotten over my high school girlfriend; the fact that the closest friends I had in the world were about to die in this steel coffin with me; the reality that my marriage was going to fail or was already failing as soon as I went home; the realization that I never really wanted to go back home anyways.
I felt very detached from my surroundings. I was in my own little world. The circumstances I found myself in were just an unfortunate backdrop. Lights were flashing red and alarms were blaring, reminding everyone aboard that their early graves in the middle of the cold Atlantic were just 5000 meters below them and closing fast. I could hear the pilot struggling with the controls, trying to get our crippled plane to soar again as it had moments before. I don’t know why he bothered. He must have known that we were missing both of our wings. They had fallen off as soon as we took contact. These planes were built cheap and fast – for numbers, not survivability.
Having gotten both my panicking and my introspection out of the way, I settled down and got as comfortable as I could, being in a plane hurdling towards a fiery end, and looked down out the glass bottom of the gun turret at the serene blue waves beneath me.