Below is a selection from the Anthology by Naija Stories commemorating those lost in the crashed Dana Flight 9J-992 to Lagos.
The particular story i’ve chosen struck such a chord with me i had to share it. I don’t know if this is a real account or fiction but the lucky escape of the protagonist is very similar to some of the stories i heard of people who should have been on that flight but for whatever reason didn’t make it.
Thanks to Myne Whitman for bringing the anthology to my attention and to all the contributors for the excellent work they’ve done in putting this together. You can find the complete anthology here: http://www.naijastories.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/So-We-Do-Not-Forget-Anthology.pdf
Let us never forget!
My Last Flight Home by Adebowale Adejugbe
‘Mors Certa, Hora Incerta’ – ‘Death is certain, its hour is not’
The important thing is not to stop questioning. – Albert Einstein
I took my bath hurriedly that morning; I wouldn’t want to be late for my flight to Abuja. It had been a few days of high debate within me – should I honour the appointment or not? – as this could be that lucky break I prayed and fasted for or just a total waste of time and resources. I tucked in my shirt after the necessary pre-travel rituals had been done, packed my pair of lucky socks and said a short prayer to complete the ritual. I was wheeling my traveling box when a feeling engulfed me, I couldn’t place it but it was very strong and I knew I was forgetting something.
It hit me after about thirty seconds that my ticket was on the living room table. That delayed me for a total of about three minutes before I finally set sail. I was thinking about my appointment, the feeling of seeing my best friend and some of my other friends resident in the nation’s capital again, the excitement of getting away from the lovely madness of Lagos for a weekend was playing “kele kele” on my mind and the comfy but extremely heart-shattering forty-five minutes journey couldn’t be suppressed either. I was eager for all of it.
All my prayers were for a fruitful journey, because the flight fare could easily have been used for a better purpose if not for the appointment that made it extremely mandatory for me to go. I didn’t want to put myself through a ten hour-plus journey by road when forty-five minutes would do the job. Add ten hours to that very sinister Lokoja-Abuja expressway and the security uncertainty that are prevalent on our roads, and it was a quick decision to travel my beloved Dana.
I still remember the main reason why I started flying Dana. I loved Aero and its very affordable prices (that’s if you booked ahead) and I always booked ahead to lower the prices. The hawking of goods in Aero flights coupled with a scare I had when returning from a trip to Calabar didn’t put me off – a multi-postponed flight which I eventually missed severed my association with Aero. I was so angry when I was told to pay almost double of what I doled out (for a two-way journey) to cancel my supposed check-in before I could be allowed on another plane. I opted for Dana and I fell in love immediately.
I had tried Arik, Air Nigeria etc. but I just fell in love with Dana. The flights were on time almost all of the time and it felt comfy enough for me. That’s all a businessman needs to hear.
I didn’t wait long at the airport after checking-in, the flight was on time again and fifty minutes later I was with my friend trading banter – journey forgotten, new environment accepted. New reality dawned on me when I was called that my appointment had been moved to the next Saturday, meaning I had just flown to Abuja on a purely social visit. In that context, I had to enjoy it to the fullest – no compromise.
The weekend was awesome. I got my ticket’s worth of fun and adventure. My flight on Sunday afternoon would be awesomely enjoyed also (my thought), I’ve come to see life as a game of NOW, live for now and let all sorrows be forgotten.
With everything packed, my friend drove me to the airport with a thirty minute head start before my flight. We were about entering the airport when I remembered I had forgotten something extremely
important (I’m that awkward) and I told my friend to turn back so I could get it. I didn’t tell him what it was even with all his prodding, I wanted it back at all cost. He had to take me back but with the constant reminder that I was going to miss my flight (I swallowed a big lump each time he mentioned missing my flight because he would be the one to fund a new ticket).
My lucky socks were lying beside the foot of the bed, very adorable to look at and so sad to be parted with for few minutes. I picked it up and ran downstairs to join my friend (he was obviously irritated that he drove all the way back for a pair of socks). We got to the airport on time to see my flight take off. What I feared most had happened and there was no money to book a new flight right away. My friend promised we would sort it out the next day which would be Monday – that was okay for me. He wouldn’t let me rest on the issue of my lucky socks though and I had to take all the yabis on board – he was paying for a new ticket, I’d give him that much leeway to dig into me.
Everything was sorted out! Yeah!
I switched on the TV when we got back to his place (about fifty five minutes after my flight left) and it was all BREAKING NEWS on the scroll bar of several stations. It was my missed flight that crashed into a residential area in Lagos, I checked my ticket to confirm my fears, it was true. I brought out my lucky socks and held on to them, tears streaming down my cheeks, my body and lips shaking uncontrollably at just the thoughts I could have been there. I started praying and hoping.
Eventually, my fears were confirmed! No survivors. Those first few minutes were real torture, several questions ran through my mind most of them would never be answered, ever! The families, everyone on the flight, people on the ground, the environment, its effects on the psyche of frequent flyers and several more thoughts were circulating through my mind. Ninety-five percent of my thoughts were depressing and I still haven’t gotten over them.
Everyone that stepped on that flight (pilots, engineers, stewardesses and passengers) and those inside the buildings on ground that paid the ultimate price were heroes; they should be remembered as such and their families should be adequately compensated.
Above all, necessary steps should be taken to prevent a repeat (it is possible). It’s better to get it right with the right people and right procedures rather than all these lamentations we are dealing with afterwards. The authorities should learn that human lives are involved and they are irreplaceable no matter how much is being paid as compensation to the families. We need a system that works. We need a system that values her citizens. We urgently need a system that is proactive. We need a system that listens and values genuine inputs from her citizens.
We don’t have to stop questioning, because that’s where redemption lies. If you are being persecuted for asking the right questions, please hang in there, it will be of use eventually. Imagine what could have happened if the right questions had been asked and the right precautions had been taken!
It might be too early to judge on who should take the blame (as some would say) but it’s not too early to admit we’ve lost an overwhelming number of dedicated and lovely citizens, it’s not too early to admit that they are not coming back, it’s not too early to posit that if people are found culpable they should dance to the naked drum and it’s never going to be too early to say goodbye.
This is dedicated to everyone who took the ill-fated Dana flight that crashed at Iju-Ishaga as their last flight home. We will always remember you and your deaths will not be in vain. You are all heroes.