I’m sorry to confuse anyone with this new format blog theme so soon after the other one. I saw a sober post today in this theme and it reflected my sombre mood. The diary theme is quite clever and that but I think it’s too jolly for the subject of this post. I’m not sure which I prefer so please bear with me while I decide. I might use both.
I can’t stop thinking about all the victims of that terrible plane crash on Tuesday, when I was just getting onto the rowing machine at the gym.
The 150 people who perished included a class of 15 and 16 year olds on their way back from a school exchange trip in Barcelona. It turns out they nearly missed the plane as inevitably one child left her passport behind at her host family’s house and they had to do a mad dash to they airport to get it there so that the group could catch the flight. How keenly we felt that, those of us with 15 and 16 year olds of our own; and others who could empathise so strongly. It’s commonplace for children to go on trips such as this. It could have been any of our children. When you’re a parent, you become everyone’s parent, I often feel and this was the case here. A whole school class wiped out. How must their friends feel at the sudden, inexplicable loss of so many mates? Their parents waiting for their beloved children to come home and they did not.
Then there were the babies and the opera singers and the businesspeople and all the rest. The 5 crew members who perished in the course of simply doing their job. The poor, grieving parents and relatives and friends of the people on board; the Germanwings pilots who could no longer face flying their planes. The people of Montabaur and Halten and Seyne-les-Alps, whose names will now forever be linked to this atrocity. When you hear the names of Lockerbie or Dunblane, what is your first thought?
The co-pilot who, it seems, locked his captain out of the cockpit and, calmly and wilfully, pressed the button to make the aeroplane descend to the minimum possible height, who remained silent as it crashed into a French Alp at 700 kph, rendering the plane and its precious cargo into tiny, unrecognisable pieces. Imagine how the relatives of those who perished must feel about burying parts and not whole bodies.
My heart went out, also, to the parents of Andreas Lubitz. Goodness, I have a child who has made some embarrassing choices and the humiliation of that is bad enough. How will they ever be able to face the world again without feeling judged, with blame inevitably being aimed unfairly in their direction? People often can’t seem to stop themselves from speculating: “What did they do to make him into a monster who would do that?” Remember that they too have lost their child, in unspeakable circumstances. I hope people are kind to them.
In trying to explain the inexplicable, it’s easy to tag it with a convenient label to make sense of this atrocity and file it away neatly in our minds. There was speculation at first that the co-pilot’s religion was the reason for the atrocity. I didn’t personally see anyone on my Twitter timeline asking whether the pilot was a Muslim – and therefore, obviously committing a terrorist act – but most people on my Timeline are measured and sensible and rational and I probably don’t follow anyone who would say this sort of thing.
Today’s reports that Andreas Lubitz had been undergoing treatment for depression and that torn up sick notes were found in his flat have provided yet another convenient label. Some of the tabloid headlines have used such awful intemperate language: He had had depression: why on earth was he flying at all? This reasoning appears to suggest that people who have had depression cannot be trusted in responsible positions such as the co-pilot’s.
There are calls to ban people who have had mental health problems from jobs like this. Surely, though, banning people is only going to discourage people in extremely stressful jobs from seeking the help they so desperately need? One in four people have suffered from depressive illness at some time in their lives. Are we really, actually saying they can’t ever be trusted again? As if people with depression and mental health problems weren’t already isolated and stigmatised enough. I feel certain that people with mental health problems are yet more casualties of this horrible, terrible awful act.
It is well known that those with mental health problems are more likely to harm themselves than other people, and plenty of people murder who have not suffered from mental health problems. Plenty of people recover from mental illness, given the right support. An atmosphere that stirs up blame and mistrust is not the right support.
There is so much speculation around this whole story but the truth is that we shall never know what caused Andreas Lubitz to act in the way he did. We do not know whether it was murder or manslaughter or suicide. Speculation is just that.
The thing is that it is difficult to detect determined liars or people covering up the truth if they are determined to do so. Luckily, this sort of thing is a rare occurrence. Of course it is unconscionable, beyond my comprehension, certainly, that someone would kill themselves and take 149 other innocent people with them, thus directly and indirectly blighting the lives of so many thousands of others. It is not my place to forgive but I don’t think it is my place to condemn either. Surely we should to try and understand fully the facts of what has happened and try to work out strategies to prevent tragedies of this sort in the future?