Sprinkles of a big splash

The news of the plane crash in Brazil really shook me yesterday. I couldn’t think about anything else all day long, and spent way too much time reading whatever news there was about it online.

It all seemed so near. I had spent a good part of the day before, nay, the week, month, year, thinking of the logistics of going back home in August. I always have to change planes in São Paulo whenever I go home, some times change airports. But this time I actually have a couple of errands to run there, and couldn’t decide whether to stop over for a couple of days, or just carry on with my move. Since I’ll be moving from Canada to Brasilia, maybe it be best to go straight to Brasilia first to drop all the luggage and think about errands in São Paulo after. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, more and more as the moving date approaches.

But this week there was something that made the whole logistics of passing through São Paulo in August even more interesting: one of my colleagues in Toronto would like me to accompany her in a trip to Porto Alegre. So two days ago we were debating whether we should combine it with my trip to São Paulo in August, or make a separate trip in October. We were discussing this two days ago. I’m don’t know what her plans are like now, but I’m sure what happened less than 24 hours after has put a completely different spin on things.

When I went home last Christmas, the effects of the plane crash in the Amazon last September were still very conspicuous (see my post of January 5). It had been the biggest aircrash in Brazilian history up to that point. My aunt works in the airport in Brasília, and she knew people who had died, and people who almost did, but decided to take another plane at the last minute. She had pictures of some of those people. If it hadn’t sunk in yet, seeing the faces and hearing the stories of two of dozens of the passengers that had died really made me go, “wow”. Ramifications were everywhere I looked.

These were ripple effects of an accident that had happened months before, in the middle of the rainforest. The one this week was right in the middle of the largest city in South America, less than a year after the other one. Ripple effect intensity goes up exponentially. Shivers go down my spine.

It’s not the proximity of the thing that is so overwhelming. Sure, I do think “this could have been me”. I’ve flown into that airport many times before, and will likely have to do it again. But there’s also something about the sheer magnitude of an accident like this, about the number of people and activities that it affects directly or indirectly, that is just, I don’t know, unfathomable.
I think of the families of each of those 200 people, what they must be thinking now, how their lives have changed all of a sudden. I think of the people who were in the building that was hit, and at the gas station. I think of the cars at the rush hour that missed being hit by an airplane by a hairline. I think of what must have gone in the head not only of the passengers, but of the pilot, and the flight attendants. I think of the people that work in or around that airport, or in any airport or aircraft. And the people that work for or with them. And those who live with or next to them, or know them somehow or other. Something like this affects a lot of people, and it affects them a lot.

So big, so close. Unfathomable, innefable. It makes anything I say or can say about it so shallow in comparison. It’s like complaining of being soaked by the littlest sneeze of a sprinkle of a big splash. So I’ll just stop here, with a moment of respectful silence.


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