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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

16 August 2005

Air tragedy near Athens

On 14 August, a Cypriot airplane crashed near Athens killing all 121 people on board. The proximity of the accident to where I live, and the fact that it was scheduled for a brief stop in Athens, prompted many friends to send emails extending sympathies and expressing the hope that no one I knew was on board.

In fact, I didn’t know anyone on the plane. Yet a very dear friend was scheduled to return from Cyprus on that day—she was just catching a later flight. This near miss—captured in the few minutes between the time the news broke and when we finally reached her on the phone to confirm that it was not her flight—has produced in me a deep emotional connection to that flight.

Let’s start with the media. Although speculating whether the plane crashed as a result of hijacking or due to mechanical failure, most media outlets failed to convey quickly basic facts—for example, that although the flight crashed right after noon, it had left Cyprus early in the morning. This information, added to the fact that this was a plane that belonged to Helios Airways and not to Cyprus Airways as was initially reported by some stations, would have calmed many people, myself included, who would have found this relevant to determine if they knew someone on onboard. Surely relaying reliable information to help those involved is more important that conjuring baseless hypotheses about what caused the plane to crash.

Next, a word about the company. The investigations thus far suggest that the airplane was found on several occasions to be problematic, with the same kind of failure that analysts believe caused it to crash on 14 August (loss of cabin pressure). Needless to say should this prove to be the case, this would constitute criminal negligence on behalf of the company; but it also highlights a broader danger: when budget airlines, or other suppliers for that matter, offer very cheap products, it is worth asking where they are making their cuts from. It could be that cheap products should attract as much attention from inspectors as they do from consumers.

And, finally, a word about sympathies. I thank all those who were quick to think of me and send me their regards; but I can’t stop thinking that if I had lost someone on that flight, I would have probably preferred to be left alone, at least for now. It is horrifying enough to think that my friend could have been on that plane; and the feeling of senselessness to have died because a company cut corners or, in the earlier scenarios, a fanatic decided to target her plane to make a political point has yet to recede—and neither have the mental images of a personal tragedy that never happened.


Anonymous Peter said...

Interesting about sympathies. I did not think to call you, maybe insensitive of me, after I heard of the Greek plane crash. I don't know why, but I just sort of assumed you and all your friends and family were alright.

Yet I did call my friends in London after the 7/7 tube bombings. But not out of fear. Again, I pretty much assumed that they were OK -- with a city as big as London and the press of people in the tube during rush hour, as well as my vague idea of their habits and routes, I called with the expectation they were fine.

But yet in that instance I called, and I think it has something to do with the New York experience of 9/11. I was bizarrely terrified on 9/11, of the possibility of losing anyone, of the destruction to New York, the symbolic importance to the city, how life in the city would be changed, how my heart felt ripped out. How even in Boston for months I looked at planes circle above the city and wondered if they would swoop lower. About getting on the T, going into the Prudential Center mall, as if waiting for a bomb or a chemical agent to go off.

I was extremely level headed (if I may say so, and relative to others) about the idea of the US being attacked. The surprise, and therefore anger, that many people felt did not affect me as much. It was more fear for what this would do to the city, how it would take a punch at the vibrancy of American life, with its cities as its nexus(es?).

So why did I call London. Why did I call New York on 9/11? Probably for the same reason--because I saw that I could help, or at least commisserate. Who can explain something unexpected, like a tornado or even an airplane crash. But with something affecting you as dear as a city does to you, as the people in a city does it you, there are things that need to be talked about. About how London would change, or stay the same. About which subway lines are still working. About stories of close calls, and therefore suppression of fears. Ultimately, the confirmation of who is okay and who is not okay, and what do we do now with our attitudes and way of life in this newly affected scene.

For some reason, all of this was important to me, and for some reason, I felt the need to check on people not only to see if they were alive, but to show that we've been through something like this before.

This (last) comment of the night is quite jumbled, but so are many things regarding foreign policy and human emotions ;-)

2:17 AM  

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