Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep…
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
– Mary Elizabeth Frye
Evolutionary biology denied humanity bird-like wings to fly with. But it gave them a more telling edge over all creation - the ability to think, imagine and create. With these extraordinary gifts man quickly created wings and flew. But the science of flight is as simple as it is stern.It is notoriously intolerant of breaching its laws and exacts the maximum penalty.
On Sunday, 3 June, in Ishaga, Lagos, the timeless laws of flight were brazenly breached. The result: Dana Air Flight 9J-996 - the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 passenger jet flying in from Abuja crashed, wiping out almost 200 passengers, crew and residents on the crash site, sparking extreme grief.
Grief is a peculiarly human emotion; the passionate suffering felt when something or someone loved is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most. Today, grief in Nigeria means Dana Air Flight 9J-996. The tragedy has spawned grief, anger, shock and perhaps a measure of loss of faith both in government and God. It has also thrown up again speculations on the mystery of life.
According to the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Christian Holy Bible, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…”
Were the folks - males, females, children, youth, elders, foreigners from different continents and some residents of Ishaga, Lagos, timed to die on that sunny Sunday afternoon? To what purpose? Was Sunday June 3rd their season of exit? In grief, so many questions are spawned. Ultimately, tragedies like this remind humanity of its mortality.
In the metal belly of Dana Air’s Flight 9J-996 were children, symbolising the future; adults representing the present (now past), foreigners from different continents and the crew. They all had their dreams. Dreams of course are the seedlings of reality.
Today, their legitimate dreams are dead. In a case, almost an entire family was wiped out. As the passengers gazed outside the windows of their aircraft on what they may not have realised was their last flight, who could have guessed what passed through their minds.
On his part, the embattled scientist from the swamps of Otuoke in Bayelsa, State President Goodluck Jonathan, has moved to provide answers and succour in his own style. Following the tragedy, the Federal Government grounded flights of the airline, “operational reasons.”
The move, according to government spokesman was to allow authorities carry out a thorough investigation into its operations as well as the circumstances that led to the crash.
According to President Jonathan, “The lives of all Nigerians and foreigners in our country are precious to this administration. We will continue to do everything possible to protect lives and prevent avoidable deaths.I assure all Nigerians and the international community that the investigations which I have ordered will be very thorough. Let me warn that, where clear dereliction of duty is established, firm action will be taken.
“This administration stands ready to take whatever action may become necessary after the investigation to prevent the recurrence of air mishaps.We are a nation of highly resilient people; in time, we will surely overcome the collective trauma of Sunday’s plane crash in Lagos.”
For good measure, backing up his position, the president set up an administrative and technical committee chaired by retired Group Captain John Obakpalorwho also has the mandate to assess the entire domestic schedules of airlines, and ensure that their managements are in line with international best practices.
As the federal government bestirs itself to sanitise a sector in need of real redemption, the most important issue must not be missed. With a single blow, a cross-section of Nigerians and foreigners following their legitimate dreams were deleted from existence. In their wake, they leave heartbreak, widows, widowers, orphans, diplomatic friction and an uncertain future.
But on the other hand, to live in the hearts of those they loved during their lifetime is not really to die. And as the American poet Mary Elizabeth Frye counseled the mourning relatives, hinting at the timelessness of life, “Do not stand at my grave and cry,I am not there; I did not die...”