Here’s Long Island’s Channel 12 covering the 19th anniversary of TWA Flight 800 at the Smith Point memorial site:
And he’s the Newsday newspaper coverage:
Here are some suggested questions for discussion after reading (or listening) to:
Thanks for becoming a part of this discussion. Photos sent of readers with the book/audiobook are greatly appreciated, and posted here: Fan Photos
My Blogging in Formation Buddies have been busy. Here are two posts that reveal the struggle pilots experience when changing from one aircraft type to another. We call this Transition Training. In other words, a pilot stays in his/her same seat (captains remain captains, first officers remain first officers) but we have to learn a completely different cockpit and procedures. When a pilot changes seats (first officers become captains) we call that Upgrade Training. Other types of training include, but are not limited to: Initial Training, Requal (Requalification) Training, Recurrent Training, and the dreaded Displacement Training (stepping backwards, usually due to an airline cutting back on flights and service).
Rob Burgeon’s May Blog:
TRANSITION TO FLYING A DIFFERENT AIRCRAFT IN 3 EASY STEPS
Karlene Petitt’s May Blog:
Transition to Flying… In Three Easy Steps!
Maybe you’ve driven your spouse’s car, and thought “no big deal.” But aircraft can be significantly different–especially between different manufacturers or manufacturing eras. To emphasize this point, a friend posted this cartoon on my Facebook wall last week:
I hope you enjoy my fellow Blogging in Formation buddies posts this month.
Cheers, Mark L. Berry
(p.s. My memoir 13,760 Feet–My Personal Hole in the Sky has been enjoying a month of downloads on Audible and great reviews are starting to appear for it, hurrah!)
Audible direct link: 13,760 Feet on Audible.com:
Airways News posted my Op-Ed article “Inside the Head of Those Inside the Cockpit” today. It’s my reflection on the Germanwings tragedy
Please make all comments on the Airways News page. Thanks.
Here are the first four paragraphs as a preview:
I’ve never been found unfit to fly before. I was attempting to work an international trip only weeks after my airline’s biggest tragedy—TWA Flight 800—that had claimed the life of my fiancée Susanne. She was one of 230 passengers and crew onboard a Boeing 747 in 1996 when it exploded in flight. So, instead of flying to Milan as planned, I was introduced to an entire, seemingly clandestine, department that was operating within my airline—Special Health Services—when the captain of my scheduled flight suddenly threw me off our trip.
As the anger inside me welled, during my long trek from the cockpit of my flight that would depart without me, to the office of my boss—The New York Chief Pilot—I began a personal mental health odyssey through both corporate and federal oversight that required me to deal with my extreme grief and survivor’s guilt, but that eventually allowed me to return to my airline career.
Looking back, I realize now that I would not have sought my airline’s assistance voluntarily. Like many pilots, I felt that mental health counseling carried a stigma of weakness. I am here to tell you that I was wrong, even though that stigma was very real, and it still needs to be further dismantled in order to encourage more pilots to seek help, or empower fellow co-workers to nudge each other in the direction of professional assistance.
Unfortunately, many pilots still struggle with deep personal issues alone, and perceive any intervention as a threat to our hard earned, yet fragile careers. It seems the Germanwings Flight 9525 first officer considered his flying career over when he tore up the medical leave notification he’d received. I don’t believe he fully understood there were methods of treatment available that could potentially allow his career to continue, after whatever level of healing he required. If a pilot can cause the deliberate destruction of his aircraft and trusted passengers in response to the threat of losing his ability to fly, the Germanwings tragedy begs the question: what can be done when a pilot comes undone?
If Family Feud polled a random sampling of 100 authors, poets, and lyric writers at a convention, and asked them why they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I bet I can tell you the number one answer: “I can’t not write.” This is ironic because even Bart Simpson knows, “I won’t not use no double negatives.” Clearly stating, “I’m compelled to write,” in the affirmative would be the proper English equivalent, yet it lacks the je ne sais quoi to convey the conviction delivered through deliberate use of the double negative. It’s conviction that allows a person who writes to finally consider him or herself a writer, and it’s almost as if “I can’t not write” is the secret password that allows each of us into that exclusive club.
Now that you know our password and are inside our hallowed grounds—the inner circle sanctuary of writers self-possessed to create with words—let me explain how I arrived here. I have proclaimed our writing sanctuary to be hallowed grounds, but more often than not, the inner landscape of wordsmiths is a personal hell that each of us tries to decorate and make more palatable. I am no exception. I became a writer because tragedy destroyed the world that I knew and loved, and for many years I failed to adapt to my new reality.
On July 17th, 1996 my fiancée Susanne left New York for Paris onboard TWA Flight 800. All 230 passengers and crew blew up off the south shore of Long Island. Nobody on that Boeing 747 survived. I was thirty years old, the love of my life suddenly disappeared, and my airline was plunged into group depression. At the time I was a pilot, and had not even considered becoming a writer. Homeowner, husband, and father—these were the titles I was readying myself to accept as my thirties unfolded, and then they all suddenly disappeared in a giant fireball at 13,760 Feet.
Ten years later I turned forty, and my closest two people came to visit. My father and my best friend Warren staged a small intervention. They were concerned that I wasn’t moving on with my life. In my defense, I had biked across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary; trekked Nepal; and traveled solo around the world. I continued to fly for my airline, and I had finally bought a house on my own. I tried showing them how functional I was, but they didn’t buy into my bullshit. They rubbed my nose in my catch-and-release relationships, my live-each-day as-if-it’s-my-last celebrations, and the general detachment with which I conducted my life. It took these extreme adventures, large purchases, and casual affairs for me to find any kind of temporary happiness. Dad and Warren challenged me to find a way to open my heart and begin really living again. They didn’t know how I would do it, I didn’t have any suggestions to offer, but I accepted their concern and I began chewing on their request.
Shortly thereafter, I was working out in a hotel gym while on a layover when the lyrics to my first song “From a Long Way Away” began appearing in my head:
From a long way away
Everything still looks OK
I still go to work
Well, almost everyday
I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth
It keeps me from saying what I have to say
It finally occurred to me that I really was faking smiles and pretending to be happy.
I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth
It makes me look like I’m smiling
Day after day
Day after day
In my early days after losing Susanne, my airline had appointed a counselor for my personal well being. Probably while noticing my resistance, she told me: emotions I bury, I bury alive. As I started writing down my initial lyrics, it occurred to me that I’d been physically all the way around the planet, but I hadn’t moved an inch emotionally.
I get around but have no place to be
And you can’t see anything wrong
Just by looking at me
Ten years later, after that intervention, I began to dig my buried emotions back out—through creative writing. These lyrics spawned an aspiring songwriter character in what became my first novel, and I began working through my own survivor’s guilt and grief by melding prose with original companion songs. There is always some truth in fiction, and I was bleeding my own pain onto the page, while trying to balance it with music and adventure. Fifteen drafts finally produced a novel I became proud enough to release to the world. Because of its original-song infusion, I turned Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun into a 36-episode podcast audiobook that I still give away for free through iTunes. It’s my first work, and it’s free in this format for three reasons. First, it’s an always-available companion for anyone suffering with their own survivor’s guilt and grief. Second, it introduces potential readers to my writing and song-infusion style. And third, my blend of books with their own internal soundtrack is better experienced through audio than described in print.
My early readers loved my first novel, but all seemed to realize I was avoiding my real life experience by putting fictional characters through my pain. Even when I applied for creative writing grad school, with the intention of completing the second novel I’d started, my readers clamored for a memoir about TWA Flight 800. When the university’s director accepted me for nonfiction, I told him only famous people and narcissists wrote memoirs, and I was neither the former, nor wanted to become the latter. He corrected me, and explained that people with compelling stories write memoirs. I agreed to give it a try, and soon Airways magazine began publishing my new memoir chapters as stand-alone articles.
Let me wrap up with a word for aspiring writers and authors. I still earn a living as a pilot, and I consider the money I receive as a writer to be a stipend, even though my twenty-third Airways article just appeared in the November 2014 issue. Becoming a published author is merely a milestone along a writer’s journey. It’s significant, but what makes us tell our stories. Do golfers need to play on the PGA tour to consider themselves golfers? Is a high school quarterback any less of a football player than an NFL pro lineman? We are who we believe we are. I was excited that Airways began publishing my work, but I’d considered myself a writer long before I entered creative writing grad school, or the first of a dozen journals accepted my writing. If you wonder about your own literary motivation, just ask yourself if you are a writer, and then listen for your inner voice to handle this question for you. Did it reply, “I can’t not?” Because by now, I hope you understand that you ARE a writer if you can’t not write.
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note: The song “From a Long Way Away (Lindy’s Theme)” can be heard here:
This blog was inspired by an e-mail I received from national training company www.webucator.com‘s Marketing Manager Bob Clary. His November marketing effort is inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and he is reaching out to authors to find out what makes us tick. I am proud to say that I completed the rough draft of my second novel (and third overall book) Street Justice during NaNoWriMo several years ago. I plan to polish and publish it in 2015. There are still a few test copies available if any serious readers want to provide me with honest feedback before my final revision.
Did we mention this is a Texas-themed party? Casual dress. No spurs in the pool.
If you missed all thirteen of Mark’s annual St. Louis celebrations and don’t know what to expect, here are a few probable highlights:
* Debra’s homemade Cajun gumbo.
* Ribs, ribs, ribs–with our tried and true rub recipe (brown sugar, garlic salt, sea salt, pepper, paprika, and a dash of cayenne pepper).
* The now-notorious booze luge
* Jello shots.
* Two fully-stocked bars.
* Live music. Possibly some performances of the companion songs from my memoir and two novels by the original music artists.
* Swimming! This year we have a pool and attached hot tub so bring your bathing suit (or not, skinny dipping not authorized until after dark).
* Coney Island side show performance including “Mr. Blockhead” (he hammers nails and screwdrivers up his nose).
Please leave children and sensitive adults at home.
We will have valet parking in front of the house. Please carpool as much as possible.
DON’T DRINK and DRIVE. Come prepared with a designated driver or a scheduled cab or Uber to take you home or to your hotel.
Guests have come from as far away as Singapore, Sweden, The British Virgin Islands, and all over the USA to attend previous parties, so don’t let a little distance get between us.
Closest hotel: La Quinta Inn and Suites
(and for you high rollers out there, it’s across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort).
La Quinta Inn and Suites 972-261-4900
Walking distance, and also a shuttle is available to attend the party.
Room rates are $82 per night.
4225 N MacArthur Blvd
Irving, TX 75038
E-book and paperback versions available on Amazon.
Author happy to sign paper copies at the party (hell, he”ll even sign your Kindle if you’d like).
Linneman, John ‘Scuba’
Shultz, Karla ‘Kae’