With the advent of social media, it’s made it so much easier to keep up with news headlines, especially the most sensationalist ones. It was Twitter that told me of Michael Jackson’s death. It was Facebook that revealed that Harold Ramis had passed away. A celebrity death spreads like wildfire. But so do other events, like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.
On that fateful day in December 2012, I was working in an office monitoring channels for fire and rescue news when I saw the first few tweets. Needless to say, I was glued to Twitter for the rest of the day, as were most people in social media. I’m not even sure if I took many breaths that day. It turned out there were so many details, too many details, in fact, that a lot of misinformation was out there.
It’s what we’ve come to crave. More information. We can’t seem to get enough. We get a name, we google, we crawl their Facebook profiles. We try and convict people before they’re even aware that they’re in the spotlight. With information overload, we end up with so many conflicting reports. It’s no wonder that conspiracy theories run rampant.
Try searching “Sandy Hook” and you’ll see that Google tries to autocomplete your search term with words like “conspiracy” and “hoax.” I’ve read some of these theories and thoughts. They are pretty far out there. I won’t go as far as to say they’re believable but I don’t dismiss much these day.
The older I get, the more I think that conspiracy theories aren’t just wacky ideas thought up by loose cannons who can’t come to grip with reality. I still think theories should be rooted in fact more than innuendo but I can appreciate the outside-the-box thinking that comes from people wanting to make sense out of things that just don’t.
It was on Friday that first learned about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I’m still not sure why but I was immediately drawn to this story searching out as much information as I could.
The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia headed to Beijing, China. I have a fair sense of Southeast Asian geography but needed a refresher. Reports indicated that the plane disappeared off the coast of Vietnam somewhere over the South China Sea about 40 minutes into the flight.
And the word “disappear” is being used correctly in this case. It was there and then it wasn’t. Radio communications ceased shortly before they entered Vietnamese air space but, more importantly, the physical plane disappeared from radar altogether.
And that’s where most of the facts end, at least for now. We don’t have the minute by minute play on Twitter like we normally might with a breaking story. But there still has been so much speculation about this flight and the what-ifs that I haven’t been able to get it off my mind all weekend.
The plane was cruising about about 35,000 feet and disappeared suddenly with no distress calls. This indicates there was likely something catastrophic that happened in the air.
Could there have been an engine failure? Sure, but even with no engines, the plane could have still glided, potentially to a survivable landing. And engine failure doesn’t mean a communications failure. The plane was there and then it wasn’t. Could it have been an engine explosion? Possible, yes, but it would be a rather rare situation for that to occur.
So what happened?
The South China Sea is a somewhat volatile region with some political turmoil. Basically, countries ranging from the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and China all lay claim to at least part of the sea. The reason why? There’s a lot of potential economic gain under that sea.
Was this a political play? Or some sort of statement? Was this some sort of act of terrorism? And if so, why this flight? And who’s responsible?
It’s been discovered that two passengers seemingly traveling together were both flying with stolen passports, under false identities. We’ve yet to hear who they are and if this is of any significance but the words are being whispered. Bomb. Terrorists.
And yet, all we really know is that over 200 people are missing and there are oil slicks on the sea that could indicate where their plane might have entered the water. This is, by far, the worst part of the story.
Families from all over the world are waiting and hoping and trying to understand. The flight was simply listed as “delayed” at the Beijing airport while friends and family waited for the arrival. It was only after hours that they were corralled to a hotel where they were told minimal information other than the plane simply disappeared. Initial reports even said that the plane might have made a landing at another airport in China, only to be proven false. The only information they really have now is the discovery oil slicks on the water.
The worst part must be the waiting and hoping against hope.
When a similar situation happened a few years ago with Air France flight 447, the wreckage was found within days but it took over two years until the black box could be retrieved. The events that led up to their disappearance were eventually pieced together but I can’t imagine it gave much closure to the family:
On that occasion, the black box evidence showed a combination of unusual circumstances – affected instruments, faulty readings and, largely, human error on the part of the pilots. In the small hours of the morning, experienced pilots became sufficiently disoriented to make decisions that stalled the plane and sent it on its way down, only realising in the very last moments how serious the problems were. - The Guardian
It’s likely that friends and family might be facing a similar situation and I can’t seem to get it off my mind. There were 239 souls on board that flight, as they say in aviation world. Regardless of how the story unfolds, that’s what’s at the core.