EyetoothDouglas W. Milliken
I was sleeping when our prop plane kissed the mountain. I can’t really say what happened. My head was leaned against the porthole glass and I remember I was dreaming about driving with a friend through the rain-washed forests of Oregon, highways slick and shining. We were looking for someplace to eat. Then I was awake and cold and still strapped to my seat but my seat was half-buried in snow and there was burning fuselage everywhere. All the metal looked twisted and black, which really bothered me because metal’s not supposed to do that, to tear or to burn. I remember the fire looked very red like it was painted over top of everything, which is likely one reason I remained so calm. None of these things seemed real. I dug my legs free from the snow and unfastened my seatbelt and tried to find the other passengers, most of whom I had only just begun to think of as friends. I do not remember feeling worried or scared. I remember thinking it was important that I find out who else had survived. I didn’t want to be the only one left. But it was hard moving out there. My legs didn’t want to work right and it was snowing hard and the storm made it dark so that I could not tell if it was daylight or dusk—I remember the black shape of shaggy trees wracking in the wind, and the burn of snow stinging along my cheeks—and at some point I stopped to pee but couldn’t get my pants down in time. Everything seemed like it was spinning or about to tip over, and I could smell more than feel the urine staining my clothes. I felt disgusted and ashamed, and then I didn’t feel anything because I was sleeping again in the snow.
I do not remember any bodies or blood in the snow. I don’t remember anyone’s voice. No panicked shouts from near or inside the burning plane. All I heard was the wind screaming its verdict down on me. It didn’t care how I felt or who I was.
Later, I’d feel the hands of rescue workers dragging me out of the drifting snow and bearing me to safety. I might remember a helicopter flight, or I might remember a movie I once saw. I remember the hospital in Denver as a sterile and icy-white place. But mostly I slept through that, too. Then the foundation we were working for had us all moved to a private recovery house back in Portland and that’s when I started to be awake again.
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