September 4, 1998

I'm an American woman living in Switzerland because of my Swiss husband's attachment to Swiss Air. I feel compelled to write out my feelings and views about the tragedy of SR111.

Switzerland is a small, though diverse, country. In size, it is about half as large as my home state of Florida. There are less people living here than in the city of Los Angeles. Yet they have four official languages, and a few-hours' drive takes you to any of at least six different countries. It's an odd combination of diverse cultures united in neutral independence in the middle of the European Union. It's the headquarters for many giant global organizations and corporations. The people are generally intelligent and responsible, benefiting from the high standard of living and working that they have created.

Swissair, although increasingly corporate and "romanized," are still the "homeboys." Everything they do is always the top story on the news. Once the media even carried a story for two days in which they (mis)reported that a plane was grounded for two days because there was a mouse (rat) on it! I thought it was a rather insignificant event for the attention it got, but I came to realize that what happens at Swissair affects a lot of lives here.

My husband works for Swissair. He started as an airplane mechanic, and now works "dispo," scheduling the maintenance for the planes. What I know about Swissair's requirements, procedures, &c. is second-hand, but I know that each employee takes their responsibilities very seriously. If there is so much as a crack in the paint of an airplane, they write it down (with measurements, &c.) and sign their name on it. They are knowledgeable, precise, and strict in compliance. I believe a mechanic has the authority to prevent a plane from leaving, and everyone understands that it is better to delay and fix a problem than deal with more complications later. Other airline companies come to SR Technics (the technical branch of Swissair) for maintenance and repairs -- that's how good they are.

I believe Swissair has the highest standards, and that is certainly evidenced by, not only their outstanding safety record, but by all other ratings as well (punctuality, service, &c.). My first trip to Switzerland was on Pan Am. My second trip was with Swissair. It was such an improvement that I decided, even though it cost more, I would always try to fly Swissair. (That was before I was married and had inside information and discount airfare.) And I always feel more comfortable and confident when my loved ones travel with them.

Whenever I would hear about a plane crash, I would always think, "Why don't those people learn something from Swissair? *They* never have a crash." It's *unthinkable* that I have to eat those words. A Swissair plane went down. It's beyond comprehension. It's really a shock on three different levels: what seemed technically impossible actually happened; so many people, from all over the world, died; and Swissair lost 13 people. Can you imagine if 13 people from your company died all at once?

The last "major" Swissair accident (70 killed) was right here, in the countryside a few miles from where I live. That was three months before I was born, in September 1963. My father-in-law flew the official photographers over the crash site. As I recall the story, he gave up flying and went to work in South Africa. I'm sure he is now reminded of that grim day.

A financial commentator on CNN said that Swissair's best corporate maneuver would be to show sympathy and assistance to family and friends of the victims. They are certainly doing that, but I believe they are doing it more through heartfelt suffering and sympathy than because of image- or profit-oriented policy. They feel they have somehow failed themselves and their people, and their regret is sincere.

Swissair is part of our lives, but it is part of Switzerland as a whole as well. There are many people, I'm sure, who are unrelated to any of those on board SR111, yet feel a desire to do something, to find a way to help. I asked my husband about it over breakfast, and he said, "Just hope . . ." I was mystified. "Hope what?" "Hope that it wasn't our mistake." I had to think about that for a second, but I have to agree. Please, God, don't let it be someone's fault. Let it be an albatross, or a UFO, a leftover flare from the Titanic that went off, anything. Let it be an accident. Don't let there be more pain.

I've realized that the only personal contribution I can make is to pray. And I would ask that, if you care enough to have read this far, you will ask God to send peace and comfort to those grieving people, or at least take a moment and send them healing thoughts.

This tragedy has had a profound effect on the entire country, and there are a lot of sad people here. If you're one of them, know that you are not alone.

Three of Swords


Death's White Rose

One Year Later

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