This past week we were honored to be on a very special flight from Minneapolis to Dallas. As we settled into our seats on the plane the captain announced that the flight we were on was transporting one of their own fallen comrades, an American Airlines pilot that had fallen ill and passed away while on assignment in Minneapolis. A very well respected man, husband, father and colleague it was said he loved his job and loved flying. To honor him they were doing a few special things as we were leaving MSP and then when we were arriving at DFW. As we backed away from the gate the entire plane was washed by a stream from an airport fire truck. The flight was a very smooth one, which made me feel as if during this Holy Week we certainly were guided by the hand of God as we transported one of His own back home. We did not know what to expect though as we landed at DFW. First we saw the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles and two trucks on either side of the plane again washing the plane in the stream of water. As we pulled up to the gate, though, hearts were torn and tears flowed as we saw a sea of pilots, airport employees and honor guard all standing at attention, saluting as we slowly taxied forward. His family was brought forward to the cargo hold. As I watched them waiting it became an even more emotional time just thinking what a shock and how difficult this time must be for them. From the terminal among several other AA employees we watched as his flag draped casket placed upon the transport belt and then carried by the honor guard to the waiting hearse. There was not a dry eye on the plane or in the terminal.
During this Holy Week it brings back even more reflections on what this week means. The pain and sorrow that accompanies the death of Jesus and the death of this man. Mary, Jesus’ mother, watching as he walked the Via Dolorosa, witnessing his pain and anguish and then his death upon the cross. The family of this man learning of his death far from home and then waiting for his return, witnessing the tribute and his arrival back home via a mode of transportation that he loved being on. Thinking of the sorrow of both families. But, knowing that in the end lives were touched and impacted upon by both of these men. Both to be celebrated.