A Prayer for Pilots, Crews, and Passengers

Growing up on Long Island, not far from John F. Kennedy International Airport, seeing and hearing planes passing overhead was a daily occurrence. So was the prayer my grandmother Anna would say in a voice barely audible.

“Please, dear G-d, let that plane arrive safely.” (Editor’s note: people of some faiths believe it is improper to write the full name of their deity, and so as a matter of respect represent it as G-d.)

As a devoted Catholic, you can imagine how busy with prayer, especially that prayer, Anna was through the normal course of her waking hours.

I was in grade school when Anna taught me to recite that prayer, but it took the events of Sept. 11, almost 40 years later, to add new meaning and power to those heartfelt words of petition.

I am again living in proximity to planes. The vehicle entrance to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport is about six miles from my home in Flower Mound, Texas and the planes that fly to and fro come so close to the roof I often wonder if it weren’t for the roar of the engines, if passengers on board can hear my prayer for their safety or maybe even read my lips.

I like to think they can.

Even though many people living near airports find a way in their brain to tune out noise pollution, it still exists in a form of “white noise.” Others, like myself, find the sound a challenge to live with. But mostly over the years I’ve marveled at the sight of airborne planes, simply awed by the minds that invented the means to defy gravity, permitting the luxury of efficient travel we have grown to depend upon so greatly.

The sky quieted, but for the birds, the morning hours of Sept. 11. For several days the airways remained plane-free, and the void became in a strange way a silent symphony, an unforgettable tribute of sorts to the incalculable loss the world was grieving.

After hours of being glued to the TV following horrifying details, I eventually found a need to quiet the media noise and escalating hysteria. I went out back and sat at the pool side to just be with my thoughts and feelings and found myself looking up. That’s when I realized just how loud the silence of the sky had become, how stopped in our tracks so many of us were, like something from a “Twilight Zone” episode when just one individual was able to make time stop, and freeze-frame a collective inhale.

I do not recall the exact hour the first commercial plane resumed flying over Flower Mound. As I stood mesmerized on my patio, tracking the jet as it cleared my roof line, what I do remember most clearly was hearing Anna’s breath come to life with mine as we exhaled, “Please, dear G-d, let that plane arrive safely.”

— Giselle M. Massi © 2002 first published in the Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.