Emergency Landing in Cuba


My memory is patchy. I was seven. My family had decided to take a relaxing trip to Jamaica. We would take a commercial jet liner, it was much to far for my father to fly in our little family plane. My father had seated us in seats over the wing, which he believed was the safest seats on the plane.

Out over the Atlantic Ocean we heard a noise. My father craned his neck to look out over the wing. Even before he saw the smoke he said, “That can’t be good.” I knew that we were in trouble. I put my hand into my mother’s and waited with wide eyes.

One of the engines had caught on fire. The captain came over the intercom and told us that we were going to be making an emergency stop. Where would we stop? I wondered. We were in the middle of the ocean.

My questions were quickly answered. Cuba had granted us permission to land. This seemed to worry all the grown ups around me. I was too young to understand the political ramifications of this. You see, this was in the late seventies. Cuba and the US might have well have been enemy nations. I remember talk of Cuban missiles and hiding under my school desk. I saw the fear in others eyes. I held tighter to my mother’s hand.

We landed and quickly disembarked the plane. I believe some even went down the emergency slide. I wish that I could say that I had, and remembered it. That would have been fun.

We were escorted to a low building and we sat, being watched with men with machine guns. The giant German Shepherd dogs that paced back and forth scared me even more.

A couple hours later, after wondering if we’d ever be freed again, they announced that our plane was fixed. We would be taking the same plane. I couldn’t make up my mind which thought was more scary, staying in this place, or flying on the plane which had been on fire?

Needless to say, we filed to our plane without a word. We took off and many people sighed a relief.

We made it to Jamaica and had a glorious vacation. I got to ride a donkey. The return trip was uneventful, yet we were tense the whole way.

As I think back, I think I remember smoke, and fire. I think there were people screaming and crying. I don’t know, maybe I blocked that part out. Maybe I am making it up as the fear built up inside me. Either way, I still feel the trauma from the experience.

I still fly in planes, if you are wondering. I just get nervous sometimes. I have reason to be.

More trauma- Tomorrow I will tell you about the time I watched someone fall to their death.



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