I rarely find myself waxing existential, but two separate, unrelated events that made headlines this past week, one of which involved tragic, seemingly random death and the other of which involved what was arguably a near-death experience for several dozen people have really gotten me thinking about life and death.
The first event was the explosion of a condominium in Taguig, which blew out both of the unit's walls, one of which fell into the street below and struck a delivery van, killing its three occupants. Investigation of the incident is ongoing, but even granting that there was foul play, an angle which, right now, is looking less and less likely, there was no way that whoever was responsible for it could have possibly targeted the victims. They were simply, as the cliche goes, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The second was the botched landing of a commercial airliner, which skidded off the runway of the Davao International Airport, one which resonates a little more personally with me as I personally know one of the passengers of that ill-fated plane. It was a harrowing experience for everyone on the plane at that moment, and had one or two more elements gone wrong as well, it could have been their last experience on this Earth. As it happened, though, all of them survived.
Investigations of both incidents are ongoing, and it's not for me to say who is to blame for either of them, but what I can't stop thinking about is how outrageously random the three deaths were, and how the survival of everyone on that plane was nothing short of a miracle.
I can't imagine that the people in the van that was crushed by the wall of the exploding condominium got out of bed that morning imagining that anything even remotely like that could possibly happen to them; considering what happened, and the way it happened they probably never knew what hit them. As sudden, horrifying deaths go it was probably one of the most merciful they could have experienced.
The plane ride was another story; one of the passengers of the ill-fated flight blogged about how things had already gone wrong before he even boarded the plane. Also, as a semi-frequent flyer myself I confess to have had more than one moment of fearing if the plane would ever land safely. No matter how safe today's aircraft are, the fact remains that flying travelers are suspended 30,000 feet above the air, something that becomes rather vivid when one looks out the window, and even more so when the plane flies through air turbulence, or in heavy wather. There's plenty of room for paranoia for people disposed to it.
In short, unlike the guys in the truck who were clobbered by a slab of concrete falling out of the sky, the passengers of the flight had plenty of time to contemplate their fate and to work themselves up into a proper panic.
I don't have answers, or even any particularly intelligent questions, but sometimes things happen in this world that really just get me wondering. I do believe in God and if I ever professed that I didn't, it was more out of a sense of childish spite, a way of somehow getting back at God for not giving me what I was asking for at a given point in time, and declaring "this is how I hurt you: by refusing to believe in you." Even as someone who believes, and who is ready to interpret a given facts to support that belief in the same way that non-believers are glad to interpret the same set of facts to support the opposite, I confess I was utterly confounded by this series of events, and it really got me thinking that the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways, especially when he doesn't.
On the face of things, if God chose whom to take and whom to spare, it's more logical that three men should die, while the hundred or so people on the airplane should live, but considering how many people have died in airplane crashes, shipwrecks, or typhoons, it seems a little odd that God's apparent machinations were better suited to human understanding this time around. The slab of concrete could have theoretically missed the van had things been just the tiniest bit different, and the on the other any of a dozen different things could have gone wrong with the flight that would have ended with the plane crashing and the passengers all getting killed, but it was not to be that way.
From going all existential, I find myself waxing cliche because all things considered, there's really naught left to say but: when it's your time to go, it's your time to go.