Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 carried 12 crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations. It is no wonder world news has been dominated since March 8 by its disappearance.
The massive air–sea rescue effort involved 26 nations and has been described as the largest air – sea rescue effort in history. This comes on the heels of 2013, which has been labeled the safest air travel year in history.
When days turn to weeks and the whereabouts of the plane, crew and passengers remain unknown, when what happened and why continue to be a mystery, the world is dumbfounded.
Transponders, black boxes, pings and other things are of little comfort to families and other people of compassion who grieve this tragedy. And nothing reawakens the world to the frailty of the human condition like a catastrophe. A catastrophe has to be severe in order to capture the world’s attention, but what is it about a calamity that commands our attention? It has to be more than loss of life because an estimated 15,000 children die of malnutrition every day. In terms of humans perishing, that would be equivalent to more than 60 large airplane crashes every day.
Perhaps one requirement of a catastrophe, if it is to command the world’s attention, is that it be an identifiable event, something we can imaginatively get our arms around. Another intriguing ingredient is mystery. It is stirring when we do not know what happened. The possibility of negligent or criminal wrongdoing is also gripping. The pursuit of blame is a close cousin to the pursuit of justice and these are the kinds of pursuits that elevate our collective adrenaline.
We also invariably want to determine how even accidents could have been avoided after they have not been avoided. We believe natural disasters can be guarded against and losses can be minimized through good preparations, and they can be and they are.
But the truth is, life is fragile and too often life seems shortlived because, in this lifetime, it is short-lived.
There are times when horrible things happen and our vulnerability is exposed. We are not invincible. The same tragedies that make some people question the existence of God draw others of us to our knees in prayer.
“Dear God, we pray for the soul of every person on Flight 370, for their families and friends, for the thousands of people involved in search and rescue operations and for countless others around the world drawn to compassion for people they will never know or meet. We pray your spirit bless them and give them comfort only you can provide.”
Catastrophes and our response to them, especially the horrible things that command the world’s attention, can draw people from different parts of the world, different cultures and different languages closer to the Creator and thus closer to one another. May this be part of the legacy of Flight 370.
The Psalmist writes, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” [139:7–10]
Should Flight 370 be discovered at the farthest limits of the sea, then have faith this is where the God of mercy will also be.
Dennis Andrews is a minister at Community Presbyterian Church of Deerfield Beach (Steeple on the Beach) located five blocks south of Hillsboro on A1A. See more at www.communitych.org or on Facebook. Worship gatherings are Saturday at Six, Sunday morning at 8:30 and 11 a.m.