The morning Garuda GA-200 burst into flames at 07.00am on Wednesday, March 07, 2007 was the morning I was scheduled to fly to Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatera; from the same airport the fateful flight took-off from and with the same airlines. My flight number was GA-186. I could be on board of the ill-fated jetliner. Perhaps, in my frequent flying, using always the same flag carrier, I have flown with it.
The morning I heard the news, an hour after the accident, was the hour I was preparing myself to leave for the airport. The weather in Jakarta, that morning, was a bit bleak. A rainy and chilly morning. It was not the right time to fly. Even before I heard the news, I had considered cancelling my flight.
That morning, like any other mornings, was putting me on my usual ritual: having my typical breakfast, vegetable porridge, while listening to the radio. I could afford being more relaxed that time. I still had plenty of time available for me. My flight was 10.20am. It takes only, at most, 45 minutes to the airport. As a holder of silver Garuda Frequent Flier (GFF) card, I even can check-in, I have experienced, 15 minutes before the set schedule.
While enjoying both my breakfast and the music, I heard the first news. No, it was not about the Garuda accident but of the earthquake that shattered West Sumatera. I heard the news a little too late. The quake, in fact, took place the previous afternoon. Deciding not to have TV in my house, I have to contend with this disadvantage. My source of information, the radio and internet, is not as fast as TV, I have to admit it.
I didn’t believe what I heard. Just six days ago, I was in the area doing an office project. A disaster also took place while I was there that left me disappointed and the whole province dismayed. Their much-prided Rumah Gadang, the well-known Minangkabau sultanate palace, was destroyed by fire. I went to see the ruined palace nonetheless, regretting why I didn’t visit the palace as soon as I reached the area. I tried to comfort myself by walking around the smoking ruins.
I kept listening to the news and then to the responded comments by the listeners about the tragedy. I was no longer interested to my breakfast or the music.
One of the responses annoyed me: the disaster, it said, was the will of God.
I could not afford being silent this time. I sent my own response asking why if we are supposed to believe that there are the force of good and bad, black and white, God and Satan, Yin and Yang, we still say, “blame” is the more correct word, that God is the cause of all this? The fact that he is the Almighty does not mean that he is responsible for anything happens on the earth. If we are supposed to believe that God is also the Most Merciful and Full of Love, I don’t think that both qualities can be reconciled. The tragedy is a crime of the highest level, an evil work. Why don’t we instead put the blame upon the opposite, the evil force, instead of God? Or perhaps on ourself, on our imperfections?
The radio announcer was about to read my comments when she told the breaking news of another disaster. This time in Jogjakarta, Central Java. At first, I thought, no, not another quake. Last year a powerful quake shook the area. It became worldwide news. But she instead was telling about a certain Garuda aircraft that exploded upon landing. Three explosions. She mentioned that.
The latest news changed my mood entirely. If before I had considered cancelling my flight, it was even more this time.
It also shattered my confidence for flying. So far, Garuda was thought to be the safest carrier. It had the safety record. Not surprisingly, if possible, all domestic air travels in my company only with Garuda.
The time was now for me to decide: staying or flying. Against my will, I opted for the latter one. Before leaving, I sent a message to the last person that I contacted before going to bed the previous night to inform about the news and at the same time telling about my departure. And when I was inside the taxi, I called another friend to switch into a certain TV station to cross-check and watch the news for me.
And, now have become a tradition, my mother called me, making sure if I was not boarding that fateful plane. Excessive worry, I know, but I can understand that and thank her for the attention. When she called me, she seemed ill, her voice sounded hoarse. The news would make her even worse. So I asked her to stop watching and remove the TV. If I am not her son, perhaps she would think I was crazy.
On my way to the airport, the first person that I sent a message to that morning said that I should be careful and asked me to pray. The friend that I asked to watch the news for me asked me to pray. So did my mother before she ended the call.
Therefore, in the morning when Garuda GA-200 crashed in Jogjakarta aiport on March 07, 2007, and before I boarded my own flight, I said my own word of prayers to the Force of Good to rectify any errors that the imperfect pilots might commit and to protect the flight from the wrath of the Black Force that perhaps wanted the plane to down as well; as it has been doing with all disasters everywhere.
(Medan, March 08, 2007)