Monday, December 17, 2007

Flying With Susan

Nineteen years ago today, Susan's Learjet crashed.

Since our first electrical circuits class together, Susan and I had been lab and project partners throughout our years in engineering school at the University of South Carolina. I convinced her to take the ROTC flight class with me for our senior elective and Susan fell in love with flying. She went on to get her multiengine certificate and Learjet qualification. Shortly after she applied to be a NASA astronaut-candidate, her plane went down.

My phone conversation with her mom, after her crash, was the toughest conversation I have ever had in my entire life. I didn't think I had that much tears. Between her mom and me, we could have flooded the entire state of Texas during that call.

But that phone call was nothing compared to evening that I received the package of Susan's things from her mom. That night, it finally sunk in. I would never see Susan again. For a whole year, I cried every night. Then, my heart went numb and stayed numb for a very long time. Even today, there's a piece of my heart that, I don't think, I will ever get back.

I googled Susan again, today. The story of her crash is still lingering in cyberspace:

The 1988 Mexico Learjet 24 crash

A Lear 24B, N234CM, departed Memphis International Airport on December 16, 1988, heading for Addison, Texas with two crew aboard, including NASA astronaut-candidate Susan Reynolds. After it flew past its destination, the aircraft was intercepted by an Air Force T-38 Talon from the 560th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph AFB, but the pilot was unable to contact the crew. He reported that the cockpit windows appeared to have frost on the inside. The Lear entered Mexican airspace. After exhausting its fuel supply, it entered a spin and crashed near Cuatro CiƩnegas in the northern state of Coahuila. The two pilots were killed.

To the news reporters, Susan was a Summa Cum Laude student, an engineer, a pilot, an astronaut candidate. But to me, Susan was the girl that changed my life and taught me to dream BIG. Although I had convinced her to take the flight class with me, Susan had been taking me flying long before that.

She flashes you a wicked smile,
Dares you to catch her if you can,
And lets out an infectious laugh
As she spreads out her full wing span.

With a dash and a leap, she soars
Beyond the stratosphere
Next thing you know, she's taking you
To where miracles appear.

Her wings will never be clipped
Her spirit will forever fly.
Whenever you're stuck here on the ground
You'd look for her in the sky.
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