From a certain perspective, the recent airline accidents that compelled the nation’s attention can be seen as a strange sort of matched pair. One, the landing of US Airways flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, ended in miraculous escape for both passengers and crew. The other, the crash of Continental flight 3407 into a residential neighborhood, was an unthinkable tragedy.
As I listened to conversations about each event, I was amazed by the similarities. Speaking of the US Airways flight a friend said, “They lucked out.” A man from the neighborhood where Continental 3407 went down said in a radio interview, “They drew the short straw.” Off-handed or considered, many remarks shared the same tone of bemused acceptance and resignation common to such occasions: ”It was his time to go.” ”It wasn’t her time.” “It was meant to be.” ”Things happen.” ”You never know…”
That tone reverberated through my childhood. It represents a world view Doris Day trilled for us over and again during those growing-up years: “Que Sera, sera, darling. What will be, will be. There are blind forces abroad in the land and they hold your life in their hands. However well-intentioned they may be, your poor, impoverished efforts to grasp and reshape your destiny will be futile.”
Perhaps it was post-WWII ennui. Perhaps it was a response to increasing Cold War anxieties. It may have been nothing more than an entire nation exhaling, wishing to relinquish responsibility just for a while. In any event, there’s no question that, even as my parents and their friends struggled to provide the better life they envisioned for my generation, they lived with an acute sense that at any moment it all could disappear. (Click here to continue reading)