Saturday, July 19, 2014

A word about MH17

Commercial aviation disasters always disturb me, but I am especially horrified and haunted by the incident involving MH17, the Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people - 2/3rds of them Dutch citizens - that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine last Thursday.

Horrified, because hundreds of innocent people minding their own business on a flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur were slaughtered due to a conflict they had nothing to do with.

Haunted, because I have flown over that part of Ukraine several times before, during my travels to and from Dubai. In fact, the most direct route between IAH and DXB goes right over this area of conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Try it yourself on a globe or on Google Earth.

At the time I was making all those trips to Dubai and back, Eastern Ukraine was not embroiled in the conflict that it is today. But my flights took me over other areas of strife, such as Georgia, Transnistria, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and of course, Iraq. I remember well the many times I stared out my airplane window as I flew over those areas, aware of the tension and outright violence occurring thousands of feet below but blithely assuming that those fighting would not have the wherewithal or desire to shoot down a third-party commercial airliner flying thirty-five thousand feet overhead.

As last Thursday's horror proves, however, that blithe assumption was wrong. And MH17 could have been any flight. Including, at another time or under another circumstance, my own.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims of those whose lives were claimed by this barbaric attack, and I hope that the thugs responsible for this catastrophe are one day brought to justice.

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