Immediately the text came in, ‘we are boarding,’ my one hour of fear began. I quickly responded with a string of heartfelt prayers for safe arrival.
I found things to do. I picked my handset and played a boring round of brickbreaker – I was good too. But in this one-hour wait, I lost all my lives after just the second level. Then I tried to ping… no one seemed to be responding. Well, with a full hour to wait, I needed to occupy my mind.
With the recent loss of my childhood friend in the Dana crash, everything had changed. Dana was our family airline. My husband would have been on that flight if there hadn’t been traffic… so…
He has to travel. Every two weeks, he came to visit. That was the family arrangement we had for now. After he got promoted and relocated to head his organization’s branch office in Abuja, a few months before the crash, we had to settle for the biweekly arrangement. I couldn’t move, yet, anyway… Our kids were two girls aged 7, and 9 and the baby of the family, a one-year-old boy.
I checked my wall clock. Only five minutes had passed since the text came in. He’d probably not even taken off.
“Oh God, help me.”
I stood up and switched on the TV. After scrolling through over hundred channels of cable TV, I settled for a Nigerian movie, an old one, When the Sun Sets, the one that introduced Kate Henshaw. The renowned Nollywood star actress looked so young, it took my attention off my misery. She was good. So good, I even found myself tearing a bit.
But then my mind went back to the clock. Twenty minutes gone. They would be airborne now. My heart began to thud and race. This happens twice every two weeks… since the crash that shook the whole world… A whole family wiped out, many children orphaned, fatherless and motherless, widowed…
The girls were in school and my son was being bathed by my younger sister who lived with us. Frustrated, I began to pace, the movie that had so held my interest a few minutes earlier, totally sour.
Whenever I got that boarding text message, we normally gave one and a half hour to receive the arrival text.
“God, there can’t be more than one crash in a year, right?”
But then I remembered 2005, when three or so planes crashed successively. Or so. “God, help me.”
I started sobbing. And I didn’t know why. “Please Lord, let him arrive safely. I can’t bear to be alone. I can’t find a job now and feed a family… Please God.”
Early in our marriage, we had decided I would be a stay-at-home Mum, to give the children a balance.
“God I promise, I will relocate to Abuja next month. I will manage the two-room accommodation my husband has in Abuja till we get another one…”
The school year just started so getting a school for the girls would not be a problem. “I will relocate to Abuja, God. I can’t take this anymore!”
I cuddled on the bed, soughing like I just came back from a long jog. Kenny, my husband, was supposed to meet Arnold, my childhood friend on that June 3rd, and both were to go to the airport together.
They missed one another, and agreed to ‘see at the airport.’ That never happened. Arnold made it, Kenny didn’t.
Ironically, Kenny was the one who made it, and Arnold didn’t!
I started to weep. Arnold had been such a friend to our family, always ready to help… always there. If anyone deserved to live, it was Arnold. As a medical doctor, he carried his profession everywhere and into everything. He worked free more times than he worked for money…
Arnold left a family too. A young, beautiful, bubbly wife who had given him three fantastic children. Arnold’s kids were close in age to my kids. How would they continue to live without a father…
I began to sob aloud, using my pillow to muffle the sound. I didn’t want to draw my sister’s attention.
Arnold was the one who introduced me to my Kenny. They had met during Arnold’s Youth Corps Service, where he served in an organization where Kenny was an accountant. He used to tease that he fell in love with Kenny for me, at first sight.
Arnold was a great man.
Oh what a wretched country I come from! I try to be patriotic, drive right, talk right, live right. At the time I had a job, I paid my tax, Kenny still does. I teach my children to love Nigeria, to serve her. We pray for Nigeria! Why would God ignore our cries for mercy and continue to give us leaders who are mean and insensitive and greedy!
For the past one year, people have just been dying senselessly and it has just come too close to home.
I didn’t know when the pillow dropped off, and I was wailing.
Only my phone ringing interrupted my outburst of sorrow. Without looking at the caller, I picked up, and mumbled huskily, “Hello?”
“Honey, we have arrived,” Kenny said. “Are you alright?”
Dedicated to the loving memory of Dr. Abiodun Jonathan, (1971 – June 3rd, 2012).
Written by Sinmisola Ogunyinka