Connections: Missing airliner rivets the world

Posted: March 18, 2014

The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 deepens with each passing day.

 

Every few hours this weekend, amid regular chores, shopping and preparations for the late winter snowstorm, we were incessantly drawn to the Internet, where facts have been sparse to nonexistent since March 8.

I heard people talking about it in checkout lines at Martin’s and Hobby Lobby.

 

We now know more about flight technology and radar than we ever cared to, a little more about the geography of southeast Asia, and a few scattered facts about the pilots and crew.

 

But like a puzzle you can’t complete or an itch you can’t quite reach, each snippet of information just magnifies the urge to know more, to somehow unravel what is now being billed as the greatest aviation mystery since the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937.

 

Of course, we all share the dull ache of human sympathy for the families of those who are missing. They are as cruelly held hostage by hope as their dear ones may be by real forces. And that unhappy scenario would, sadly, be the best possible outcome.

 

The mind wanders. If they are alive, what are the passengers eating? If they are dead, did they suffer? There were children aboard. How did they fare? Were they alive during the gut-wrenching turbulence as the plane, theoretically, rapidly changed altitude to elude radar?

 

But, the truth is, thousands of people die every day in epidemics, wars and famines, and we don’t calculate their possible loss on an hourly basis in this way.

 

What is so different with this story, of course, is the captivating mystery and, at its heart, the reminder that we as a species are not really in control of our world.

 

We don’t know for certain why we are here to begin with, though religions offer assurances and faith provides comfort to millions.

 

The missing plane is an unsettling reminder that the world is an unpredictable and alien place, even as flying in airplanes has become commonplace. Even as we try to give our children a sense of security as we tuck them in at night, we can’t control the weather, natural disasters, wars or the evil actions of other people.

 

 

“I think the most fascinating aspect of this story now is that it’s become ... transcendent,” said Patrick Smith, an airline pilot, blogger and author on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.” “And by that, I mean, it’s no longer a story about an airplane crash; it’s a mystery story.”

 

The story of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has dominated headlines and social media since it broke 10 days ago.

 

By Sunday night, it was no longer trending on Twitter in the United States, but it remained among the top stories in Malaysia and India, according to CNN.

 

People are not only following this story, thousands are scouring the plane’s search zone using detailed satellite images posted online by DigitalGlobe, a Colorado firm that owns one of the world’s most advanced commercial satellite networks, CNN reported.

 

The firm’s website crashed due to the volume of traffic as people tried to scan the ocean for debris.

 

What could be the ultimate impact of the missing flight?

“We tend to identify with these kinds of disasters, and so the fear of flying may go up for many people,” psychiatrist Gail Saltz said on Piers Morgan’s program.

 

Saltz said people are gripped by the story. “They want someone to hold accountable. It’s a very disturbing thought, and right now we can’t figure out who’s to blame,” she said.

 

The psychiatrist summed up our fascination: “I think this nebulousness keeps us riveted.”

 

 

Well, it’s probably time to check the Internet again. Maybe there’s word on that plane.