Kenya: How It Began 1977 (Continued…)

        “I was so proud of Laura’s cool-headed action in that emergency.” John said. “One of the passengers, a well-dressed man, bolted from his seat and started to scream for help. He spoke Italian, but there was no mistaking his message. Shaking and near hysteria, he set off a chain reaction. His fear was contagious and panic spread in seconds. It’s hard to believe, but there were no flight attendants around. Laura stood up and demonstrated how to use oxygen masks. She told everyone to put them on and leave them on. All this was going on while the plane was nose-diving toward Copenhagen. Things got a little quieter as people concentrated on taking in oxygen.

        “After what seemed like an eternity, the plane started to level out. The pilot’s announcement over the loudspeaker confirmed what we already knew. The DC-10 had lost cabin pressure and was returning to the airport in Copenhagen.”

        “As we approached the airport, people felt safer and reassured,” Laura said, “And the oxygen masks started to come off. Then John smelled smoke. He looked around and saw that the man behind us lit a cigarette. John jumped across the seat and put the cigarette out. We had survived the oxygen loss, the dive, the panic, and now we were being threatened with a mid-air explosion. All that oxygen in the cabin was just waiting to blow. Unbelievable!”

        We’ve traveled a lot since then, but we’ve never seen a more weary group than the crew and passengers who walked off that almost fatal flight. The exodus from the plane was supernaturally quite. The Italian businessman thanked us, as did some of the other passengers. Even the fellow with the cigarette told us he was sorry. He said he hadn’t realized that oxygen was still being automatically released into the depressurized cabin. The near-death experience had united people from many different cultures.

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