The roar outside my study window at 6:50 this morning was loud enough to cause me to stand and move double-time to the window. I saw a small passenger jet cross over the clearing. “Low. Too low,” I thought. Unpleasant prickles tightened my scalp. It seemed to be trying to run under the thick slate clouds. I stood there another 20 seconds, peering through the rain-streaked window, listening. There was no sickening boom, no bloom of jet-fuel smoke. I felt the tension go out of my shoulders, put down my pen, and wandered through the dark house to the kitchen, where I ground coffee beans and stood at the half-glass door that gives onto a small wood porch and stared out into the timeless morning. I noticed the old orange I put out for the fruit-loving resident possum on a stack of old brick under the spreading oak was gone.
We’re in a flight path for passenger planes headed to Pensacola Airport as well as military helicopters, so a certain level of buzz and sonorous drone is normal. Whatever happened this morning felt like a disaster near-miss, a big “Whew, that was close!” from the crew. That’s my imagination, anyway. I thought of how we fly, drive, walk up the road, take showers, play ping-pong, even separate frozen biscuits with a steak knife, all day every day, almost always without incident or accident. It made me remember hearing stories about the awful night in May of 1978 when a National airlines pilot landed a 727 Jet in Escambia Bay, and the heroics of a tug boat pilot and his mate who saved all but three of 58 aboard.