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Essay “The Sound of the Heart”

February , 2024
Living in the Present

When I was in my twenties on a plane journey, a fire broke out in the left engine of a Lufthansa that had just taken off from Frankfurt. My seat was in a slightly forward position from the left wing, and though I saw an orange light glowing, I didn’t think it was fire and just
wondered what it was.
Soon, I saw the flight attendants running around back and forth, and I realized that there was some kind of trouble.
Other passengers were also talking to each other and pointing to the left engine area. Soon after, everyone started fussing, and I felt that we were in big trouble, and the thought of the need to write down something in such a situation crossed my mind, but I couldn’t move my body.
There was an in-flight announcement.
It said that there was a problem and the aircraft needed to dump its fuel before turning back to Frankfurt. The plane seemed to have started dumping the fuel and as announced, circling the same spot. I understood that this is how they dump fuel to avoid catching fire upon landing.
As the announcement was made in a calm tone, I was simply reassured that it was not a big deal, and everything would be alright.
When the plane landed safely in Frankfurt, there was a natural applause from the passengers.
Everyone except for the quiet Japanese, expressed their emotions through gestures of joy, shaking hands.
The aircraft as it reached the parking position, was surrounded by many fire engines and ambulances. And people who had cameras in their hands started taking pictures of the left engine part. I couldn’t help wanting to see what was going on there, but I couldn’t figure out anything until I got off the plane.
When we finally got off and looked at the aircraft, the inside of the left engine was burnt and blackened. It was a so-called bird strike problem, caused by a bird getting caught in the engine.
Passengers had to stay in Frankfurt for a few hours before flying to their destination in a different aircraft.
I did not know anything about aircraft, but I got to know afterward that even if one of the engines stopped working, it would be OK on larger models of aircraft. But it was indeed an unforgettable, chilly memory for me.

In 2024, very shortly after the new year, the Ishikawa, Noto earthquake occurred on the evening of New Year’s Day which also triggered a major tsunami warning. The anchormen
on TV shouted “Danger! Run now!” and the New Year’s mood was turned upside down. At first, due to a lack of information, it seemed that the damage was minor, but then the damage became clear, one after another.
All the TV channels continued to show damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami, new tremors, updated tsunami warnings, and so on. It was on the evening of the 2nd of January when the news footage suddenly switched to Haneda Airport. The TV anchorman had to announce the news in a puzzle, as he couldn’t understand the situation he was seeing. The image on the TV screen showed a large object that looked like a fireball, running from right to left through the centre.
As the sun was setting and getting dark, a large blazing ball of fire was projected.
TV reporters kept saying that they didn’t know what was happening because of the lack of information, but something was burning in front of them.
And then the catastrophe.
I never imagined that the fireball was a JAL flight.
I didn’t think there were passengers and crew on board.
It was a miracle that everyone on the JAL flight was safe, but everyone on the JCG aircraft that collided with the JAL flight except for the captain, was unfortunately killed.
The catastrophes occurred in Japan on New Year’s Day and on the next day in a row.

I now realise that no one knows what can happen a moment from now. Two catastrophes that made everyone cringe and wonder it could have happened to them.
It might be that we human beings, as well as all living things, are walking on tight ropes on the edge of life and death at all moments. It may be that time is moving along the same line between life and death. Life may be made of a series of such miracles.

This incident brought me back to that time in my twenties. I was the one who was on board and felt that life expectancy and destiny are never what you want them to be.
To live means that we are allowed to live by chance, choosing this moment. To be alive at this moment is a miracle. With gratitude and fear.
I would like to carefully connect today to tomorrow, in the year that started from feeling such gratitude in my heart.