Iconic Moment

“Nous demandons à boire, mais nous demandons aussi à communiquer.”
(“We need to drink, but also we need to communicate.”)
– Antoine de Saint Exupéry

It’s one of my favorite literary aviation quotations – the pilot, rescued from a crash in the desert, describes his love for the stranger who brings him water. And my favorite literary aviation moment occurs in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Listen! The Wind, when, after a night of blind flying across the south Atlantic in a small plane, she and her pilot husband buzz the ship Westfalia with whom they have been in radio communication all night. All the sailors are on deck waving at them as they swoop down to wave back. I often think about their final radio message from the small airport in the Cape Verde Islands as they set out on that trip: “We listen for you always.”

Tim and I said our goodbyes yesterday morning in Big Spring and thanked the incredibly welcoming Mike and Sophia again and again. As we taxied past the McMahon-Wrinkle air terminal on our way to the runway, Tim said to me, “Wave as we go by.” So I did, for a long time, though we were already too far from the terminal for me to see through the windows. There were two other planes in the circuit and the radio was full of their traffic calls and of our own. Suddenly, in between these calls, the airport director’s voice came through to say: “Sophia waved back.”

Sophia waved back!

It’s just impossible to say how much this moves me.

THIS is what makes us human – our ability to communicate across space and through time.

I was neither looking for such a moment nor expecting it. But I think it may be the highlight of my entire trip – those three words over the radio. Sophia waved back.

(pause to mop up)

Well! From the sublime to the ridiculous – there actually WAS a gopher on the runway as we took off.

We left Big Spring and flew over increasingly green countryside, to land at Texas State Technical College airport in Waco, Texas, last night. There, the ground staff noticed even before we shut down that One Bravo Juliet’s wheel struts were uneven. The kind and brilliant engineers here had this fixed within two hours. (Someone, not one of them, suggested that an acceptable fix for this problem is to jump up and down on the wing. We don’t believe this is an FAA approved procedure and are ignorant as to exactly where, how hard, and what the required footwear would be, so we didn’t try that.)

One of my two very dearest high school friends, Kristyn, drove an hour after work from Harker Heights and spent the evening with us in the bar of our Holiday Inn. And yes. “We need to drink, but also we need to communicate.”