By Najla Nabil
As if we haven’t had enough reminders these past few months to pause and look around us with a more heightened awareness of priorities, relationships, goals and choices, comes this tragedy like a bolt from the sky. It tore through everything in its path and rattled the soul with the sheer scale of its impact.
It took all day to try articulate a fraction of what it all felt like — one wonders if that is still possible. If you haven’t gone through the details yet, in the afternoon of Friday, Ramadan day 28, a Pakistan International Airlines flight PK8303 coming from Lahore to Karachi, with 99 souls on board, crashed into a residential colony, just short of 60
seconds from the runway of the famous Jinnah International Airport. Only two passengers survived.
Less than 60 seconds. Half a mile from the runway. How do you even begin to let that sink in — so near yet so far!
This was one of the first flights to be operational after two months of lockdown being eased across Pakistan. We all know that feeling when you’re at the approach, those last few minutes of adjusting your seatbelts, looking for a chewing gum or saunf to equalise your ears (in my case), and you’re able to see the city down below. I love that moment, all the brown fields and rows and rows of homes that is Karachi. In those few minutes you know you’re pretty much there already and you’re thinking about your day ahead. And then everything changes.
As an aviator spouse, my knee jerk reaction in such times has now become a defensive one. As the shock and sadness begins to hit, I need answers to all the science that is usually beyond me otherwise. I want to know what happens at which point, what exactly happens during the “go around”, how much control you have, what are all the possible causes of the accident, what the captain is thinking and doing etc. My heart goes numb and I probe my husband for an explanation of every scenario, because that is my coping mechanism now. Many of you will relate with this. I don’t live in fear but I also don’t want to live in ignorance. Somehow it helps me cope. I know in my mind and heart that while the science, logic and numbers will add up to something eventually, there will be a need for answers, for harsh painful lessons to be learnt (one sincerely hopes). And yet it will mean nothing because the lives in this horrifying accident are lost now. Nothing helps to heal that or help the grieving except find the strength in the knowledge that it was all meant to be. That He is the All Knowing, the Almighty, the One who decides everything, and we are at His mercy.
With the state of the world right now, and closer home in Qatar, following strict protocol laid out by the government, we were trying to lift our spirits for our first ‘Stay-At-Home’ Eid. However, this accident just seems to have sucked every ounce of strength and spirit.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, there will be detailed investigations, calls for accountability, anger and frustration at the helplessness, and may be a long time for the final technical report to come in, if past history is any evidence.
But for the grieving who are still grappling with this most traumatic turnaround all that is secondary. For today, please think of the families of the lives lost, be respectful in how you speak and share on social media, including the ones in the residential compound who had no idea what hit them and destroyed their homes and took lives that no-one is able to give a complete account of.
The search and rescue operation continues to meander through the debris as this goes into print. Keep them all in your prayers. May Allah give them patience and strength and everything between and beyond, in these already difficult times.
As we sit on our prayer mats to express our gratitude at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, we pray for the health and safety of all our loved ones, and of those whose Eid might not be very different from their existing trying circumstances, let us pray harder than usual, for this to get better somehow.
May Allah forgive all of us. “Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.”
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