The plane took off once again, passed through the fog that was the mountain overlooking the lake, and emerged on the other side into a night sky that quickly began lightening up until, a few seconds later, it looked like late afternoon. Fog weaved in the air marring the view. What it did reveal as the 737 swam lower was flat and barren ground below, with a long grey stretch running through it.
“That’s a runway,” Michael said.
“I’m not sure I like this.”
A plane was taxiing towards the runway below them. A white plane, a large one. The words Pan Am shone on the fuselage. Another plane, a bright blue one with KLM on its side stood at the far end of the runway for a second and just as Bianca’s 737 dived down on its own, it began accelerating.
“Oh, God,” Michael said. His voice was quiet and hollow. “This is Tenerife, isn’t it?”
“Yup.” Bianca was squeezing the yoke tight enough for her knuckles to turn white. She was squeezing despite the pain and the needlessness of holding it at all. She knew what was going to happen in a few moments. They both did. And they knew there was nothing they could do to prevent it. Because it had already happened.
Michael covered his face with his hands for a second and let them fall, the scene below proving as irresistible as it was horrible. The KLM accelerated down the runway. The Pan Am taxied along one of the side runways and emerged at the other end of the runway facing the KLM plane.
“Jesus Christ,” Michael whispered.
They were now right above the two planes and the Pan Am pilots had just seen the looming plane ahead and were trying to turn their own aircraft away. There was no time. There was no space. The front half of the KLM parted company with the ground as the captain tried to fly over the other plane in a last desperate attempt to avoid the crash. But instead it cut through the Pan Am’s fuselage losing its landing gear and belly in the process. The explosion shook Flight 311 and forced Michael and Bianca to cover their ears and squeeze their eyes shut for a second while their 737 dived into the fireball that a moment ago had been two planes.
This time the 737 only passed through the inferno, with Bianca pushing the throttle all the way as soon as she could see again. They were up in the air in seconds, leaving the wreckage behind.
“What was that?” Michael looked around. “The plane was supposed to be full of people. Overflowing.”
Bianca didn’t answer. The sky began darkening as they flew up and forward, and soon it was night again and the full moon was glaring at them with her one white eye. The door to the cockpit opened.
“What’s going on?” Samantha said. “There’s nobody on the plane and there must have been…”
“More than five hundred,” Michael said without turning.
“So, where are they?”
“Buckle up, we’re landing,” Bianca said.
Michael turned to look at Samantha, who shrugged. He shook his head. Samantha frowned but left as Bianca started the descent to the lake. In a few minutes they were on the ground but she did not release the yoke.
“Beans? Are you all right?”
She shook her head slowly. Nobody could be all right after witnessing one of the most horrible crashes in history. Nobody could be all right knowing there were more than five hundred terrified people waiting for someone to help them pass through to whatever else was there after death. All because of one person’s arrogance.
“How can I help?”
Bianca turned to him and tried to force her face into a smile.
“Help the people. They’re outside.”
Michael nodded and left the cockpit. Bianca sat clutching the yoke, staring ahead at the dark. Five hundred and eighty three people had died in the crash they had just witnessed and while there were many factors that contributed to this, to Bianca, the biggest culprit was the captain of the KLM who had decided to take off before the control tower had given him the go-ahead. And now, this captain was outside with the rest of the victims of his massive mistake. She couldn’t face him, not yet.
The lake shore was full of people and these people were making a lot of noise. Many were crying and many were shouting, asking for an explanation.
“This will be the toughest one yet,” Samantha said, her face drawn, lips tense. “I’m not sure how we’ll handle all of them. And with Charles gone…”
“We’ll find a way,” Michael said. “I hope.”
“Where is the captain?” Rob asked as he and Gabrielle joined them at the top of the stair. Gary only shook his head when Gabrielle asked him if he was coming. She didn’t press him.
“She’s not feeling very well, I think. This is one of the worst plane crashes of all time,” Michael said and stepped out. He winced at the crowd on the beach, which was now over the initial disorientation and was turning its attention to the plane. “I think she took it hard. Let’s go.”
There were more than five hundred people on the strip of pebbles that separated the lake from the land. There wasn’t much of a shore to speak of, so it looked as packed as a piece of candy dropped on a floor and infested with ants. People were stumbling around, kneeling and praying, and some were even lying down, unable to stand. Everyone wanted an explanation, including the two people in white pilot uniforms close to where the Flight 311 crew stopped.
You can find the complete book here.