A Scary Moment

Have you ever experienced a scary moment? I mean an “I think I might die” moment? I had one of those last week.

My bride and I were headed to New York City last week to attend a conference. As soon as our plane left the ground, a heavy odor (smelled like jet fuel?) went through the aircraft and nearly immediately thereafter, an alarm began ringing in the front area of the jet. The flight attendant burst up from her seat to check it out. With the alarm still ringing, she turned around with a panicked expression and raced to the back of the jet. She then raced back to the front. For about 90 seconds, there was some panic on the aircraft.

While the flight attendant was trying to determine what was going on in the cabin, the pilots leveled off the plane at low altitude and immediately banked back toward the airport. The flight attendant (nearly out of breath) informed us that the fire alarm had went off, but no visible issues existed and that we would be making an emergency landing shortly. Thankfully, we landed safely and were immediately greeted by airport fire personnel. We even made the local news.

After calming down and processing through everything we experienced, here are some random thoughts I had during and following this event:

  • In the midst of it, I prayed out loud to Jesus. It allowed me to remain calm.
  • As crazy as it sounds, in the brief few moments of panic, I was not scared of dying. My thoughts were focused instead on the sadness of not being able to hug and raise my children.
  • I knew that my bride and I have taken care of our family as best as we can by having: (a) a written will, (b) life insurance, and (c) clear guidance on regarding our children and assets.
  • I was attempting to utilize my engineering degree to determine what altitude we needed to be at in order to glide back to the airport (I am so glad we didn’t have to rely on that knowledge!)
  • Life is very fragile, and I really have very little control over it – other than to LIVE IT FULLY while I am alive!
  • It was important for me to get right back onto another airplane – getting right back onto the proverbial “horse that kicked me off” – so that fear did not gain a foothold.
  • My little boy thought the fire truck pictures were so cool.
  • I still love planes.
  • I don’t want to experience that type of situation ever again.

By the way, the airline was INCREDIBLE at taking care of everyone. They obviously had a well-planned and thought-out crisis management process. They sent me an incredibly well-written email that showed they had full knowledge of what happened, empathy for the fear that could have been experienced, and a commitment to make it right to the best of their ability.

Read recent posts


  1. Chris Charpentier on December 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Just wanted to say that I am glad that the plane situation turned out well and that you and your wife are safe.

  2. jsangl on December 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Thank you so much!

  3. Keri morgan on December 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Great insight and great points! And also glad you and family are safe!!

  4. Margie on December 11, 2012 at 3:01 am


    There is a great sermon here.

    I think you had a lot to say that concerns all that I have been learning from you.

    #1 Everybody needs an emergency plan.

    A. The airline had an emergency plan and was successful in carrying it out.

    B. You had an emergency plan…Your top priority was your spiritual insurance was in effect…(you always contact your insurance provider in an emergency)and the first thing you did was to connect to your source (Jesus) by prayer.

    C. Plus you already had a physical plan in place; you had a will, insurance and someone to take care of your children.

    What if the airlines had not had an emergency plan. What if you had not made all the preparations you did before boarding the plane. And Thank God, nothing happened, but what if it had?

    Because you had made all the right preparations, you didn’t panic, but had the peace that passes all understanding. I pray we all have that.


  5. jsangl on December 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you, Keri! We are glad to be on the ground again. 🙂

  6. jsangl on December 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Margie- great points! Preparation does bring peace. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment