This Day (Lagos)

16 June 2012

Nigeria: Dana Air Crash, God, and the 'Just-Missed-It'

analysis

Last week, I wrote myself into trouble. Trouble so big that I had to go and recharge! After listing some of the people who had to fly the Dana flight but missed it, and therefore death, I ended this way "one issue I am careful not to raise now is why God gave some people lucky breaks in the Dana Air crash, while others were not so lucky".

Writers seem to worry themselves too much about the puzzles of life, but it is amazing to read how people narrowly missed being on the Dana Flight, at the World Trade Centre, or on the Titanic, so built "it could not sink".

After a week of research, I thought I have an explanation: It is God's favour! Fine explanation, but I soon run into a problem. Why should God administer preferential treatment, showing extra kindness in comparison to the treatment of others?

I had to resume the research until I read this by David Raegan: "However, favor is not always used in a comparative way toward others. It sometimes simply means that the one favored is shown kindness and treated with a generosity and goodwill far beyond what would normally be expected even by him or herself".

Then I sighed!

Since God's sovereignty and choices are without question, we rather not split hairs from this point on. I cite below more examples of people in the Just-Missed-It Club, a term used after the crash of the Titanic for people who missed the voyage of death. Titanic and 9/11 examples are courtesy Patrick Weidinger.

Saved from Dana Air Crash

Yeye Rewane: Her cook advised her to rest instead of flying back to Lagos that Sunday morning. That advice turned out to be the saving grace for her. Rewane had booked and even paid for ticket of the flight on Friday as soon as she arrived in Abuja for a family wedding.

At the wedding, she danced until there was no strength left in her. At a point, she had to pull her shoes to get some relief. When she woke up that Sunday morning, she was totally exhausted. But she struggled to get up from bed to prepare for the trip, but the cooked that had noticed how tired she was the previous day, advised her to rest.

Mrs. Rewane heeded the advice without reasoning. She said it didn't even occur to her she would be losing money. "I just listened to him without argument and went back to sleep," she recalled.

She was still sleeping when the crash happened and her phone started ringing. Concerned relations were on line to confirm if she survived the crash. Many of them knew she was booked to be on the flight

Saved on 9/11

Larry Silverstein: Larry Silverstein, the wealthy property owner and developer who held the lease on the World Trade Center properties, was due to work that morning of September 11, 2001, in the temporary offices of his company, Silverstein Properties, on the 88th floor of the North Tower. But he had a problem; he had a dermatologist appointment that morning, too. According to Silverstein, his wife "laid down the law" and told him he could not miss the doctor's appointment. Therefore, Silverstein was not at the World Trade Center when the planes hit. Two of Silverstein's children, his son, Roger, and daughter, Lisa, would regularly attend meetings with important clients at Windows on the World. That morning, they too were running late and were not at Windows when the planes hit. All three Silverstein's survived, leading conspiracy theorists to assume that they had advance knowledge of the attacks and deliberately stayed away from the WTC buildings that day. Silverstein did lose four employees in the attack; two of them had just been hired.

Michael Lomonaco: Chef Michael Lomonaco had one of the best jobs in the world, as head chef for Windows on the World at the famous World Trade Center, located on the 106th and 107th floors of the building. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was heading up to his office at Windows on the World at around 8:15 AM, when he made a decision. He had an appointment to get his glasses repaired at noon at the Lens Crafters located in the lobby of World Trade Center Building 1, but decided to stop to see if he could get his glasses repaired earlier. This delay of about 30 minutes probably saved his life.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow did not, herself, narrowly survive being killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001. But a chance meeting between Paltrow and a total stranger, Lara Lundstrom Clarke, probably saved Clarke. Both had been exercising that morning, Paltrow taking in an early yoga class, Clarke rollerblading along the Hudson. While Clarke was crossing in the middle of a West Village street in New York, Paltrow was driving in her silver Mercedes SUV. Suddenly, Clarke looked over and realized who was in the SUV. Clarke and Paltrow each stopped and the two of them exchanged greetings. This small delay made Clarke miss her train to the World Trade Center building 2, where she worked on the 77th floor.

Patti Austin: Grammy award winning singer Patti Austin was booked on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, from Boston to San Francisco. However, she had to change the flight to a day earlier because her mother had a stroke. Therefore, she was moved from performing the second night of the Michael Jackson Tribute Concert in New York City, to the first night. "That's what saved my life," Austin recalls.

Julie Stoffer: In 2000, Julie Stoffer was a cast member on MTV's reality television series "The Real World: New Orleans," the ninth season of The Real World series. She was the first Mormon featured on The Real World. Growing up a strict Mormon, she was not allowed to watch MTV and had to watch The Real World series at a friend's house. She decided to audition for the show in LA, along with 35,000 others. It just so happened that the shows directors were looking for a "faithful Mormon" to cast, and they selected Stoffer.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Stoffer was booked on American Airlines Flight 11, from Boston to LA. But due to a fight with her boyfriend, Stoffer missed the flight. Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board.

Ian Thorpe: Ian Thorpe is an Australian swimmer, who won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian. On September 11, 2001, Thorpe was out for a jog and intended to go to the observation deck at the World Trade Centre, when he realized he had forgotten his camera. He hailed a cab and asked the cabbie to take him to his hotel, so he could get it. He returned to his hotel room and happened to turn on the TV where he saw the North Tower of the World Trade Center on fire.

Seth MacFarlane: Seth MacFarlane has made millions laugh as an animator, writer, producer, director and voice of cartoons such as "Family Guy." On September 11, 2001, he was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on American Airlines Flight 11, after being a keynote speaker at his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, in Rhode Island. Fortunately for MacFarlane, his travel agent told him his flight would leave Logan Airport at 8:15am, when it was actually scheduled to depart at 7:45am. MacFarlane arrived at Boston Logan Airport a few minutes after boarding was stopped on his flight and he was told he would have to wait for the next flight. An hour later, Flight 11 was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on the plane.

Saved from the Titanic

Robert Bacon: The United States ambassador to France, Mr. Robert Bacon, had reserved passage aboard Titanic for himself, his wife and daughter. But their departure was delayed by the tardy arrival of the new ambassador, Myron T. Hendrick. The Bacon family sailed April 20, on the maiden voyage of the S.S. France - instead of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic.

Baron M. von Bethmann: A toss of a coin was all that separated three men from being aboard the Titanic. In 1912, three worldly and wealthy male friends were taking a tour of the world. The three were Baron M. von Bethmann of Frankfort-on-the-Main, P. de La Vielestreaux, and Maurice Brevard of Paris. They eventually made their way to Chicago to visit commercial industrial and financial centers. While there they reported their near-miss with the Titanic. "We intended coming over on the Titanic," the Baron said, "mostly for the novelty of its maiden trip, but at the last moment concluded to take an earlier boat." "Two of us wanted to wait on the new Titanic," the baron said, "and the third felt that we would be wasting too much time. We tossed a coin to decide the matter and it fell in favor of an immediate start."

Norman Craig: Norman Craig was a Scottish MP and King's Counsel, and had originally booked passage aboard the Titanic for her maiden voyage to America. He had decided to make the trip "for a blow of fresh air." After the Titanic sank, some assumed he had been aboard or transferred to another ship for safe passage, but he never made the trip. He said "I suddenly decided not to sail, I cannot tell you why; there was simply no reason for it." "I had no mysterious premonitions or visions of any kind nor did I dream of any disaster." "But I do know that, at practically the last moment, I did not want to go."

Edgar Selwyn: Edgar Selwyn was an important figure in American theater in the first half of the 20th century. He directed and produced films, but is probably best remembered for having co-founded and built the Selwyn Theater (now the American Airlines Theater) on Broadway, in 1918. However, had it not been for Edgar Selwyn's desire to hear an early rendition of a new novel, he might have died aboard the Titanic and never built the theater.

English novelist Arnold Bennett recorded in his diary that a meeting between himself and the Selwyn's was the only thing that saved their lives. The Selwyn's came to see Bennett on April 19th, to hear him recite passages from his latest comic novel, and to do so forced them to cancel their plans to board the Titanic on April 10, 1912. They had planned on traveling aboard the Titanic with Mr. and Mrs. H.B. Harris, who did make the journey. It is possible their wish to get an early look at Bennett's novel "The Reagent" saved their lives. As for the Harris couple, Mr. Harris was a Broadway producer who saw his wife off onto a lifeboat and died with 1,513 others on the ship.

JP Morgan et al: An incredible stroke of bad luck that turned out to be good luck befell three prominent industrial leaders (Henry Clay Frick, JP Morgan, and J. Horace Harding) who were all set to board the Titanic, in April 1912. The three are linked so I listed them as a single entry. Henry Clay Frick, one of the wealthiest Americans of the early 20th Century with vast holding in steel manufacturing, originally booked passage for himself and his wife aboard the Titanic, in February 1912. But while they were in Europe, Mrs. Frick suffered an accident in Madeira and sprained her ankle. Upon arriving in Italy she was admitted to a hospital. This caused a delay in the travel plans for the Frick's and they were forced to give up their suite aboard the Titanic. Instead, the suite (B-52, 54, and 56) went to JP Morgan. Morgan was, of course, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world in 1912, with his vast banking fortune. But Morgan himself was forced to alter his travel plans when he decided to prolong his visit in Europe. The reservations were once more turned over, this time to J. Horace Harding and his wife. Harding was another prominent banker. But the couple was able to get an earlier sailing date aboard Mauretania. The unlucky suite would eventually be taken by White Star Line Chairman J. Bruce Ismay.

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