yesterday, as i was preparing to board my washington, dc-bound flight from madrid’s barajas airport, a spanair plane caught fire and crashed during take-off. almost all of the 170+ passengers and crew perished in the catastrophe, save for 19 survivors who are reportedly in critical condition. victims were attended to almost immediately by a wave of emergency relief crew responding to the runway crash.
the scene at the airport was one of controlled panic and heavy grief. barajas did not make the tragedy immediately known to travelers waiting in terminal T4, and we were first alerted from news feed from the states received via blackberry, just before our flight was scheduled to depart. boarding was delayed and people were beginning to wonder what was going on. passengers crowded around as i read the details aloud from my blackberry: a terrible crash had occurred on the runway of T4 and the airport was obscured by massive clouds of smoke from the burning wreckage. everyone had difficulty comprehending the shocking reality that just steps away from us people were dying. it was absolutely devastating.
the airport remained closed for approx. 2 hours, with flights suspended indefinitely. we were surprised to learn that our flight would depart only 2.5 hours delayed, and boarded with mixed feelings. anxious to return safely home, but plagued by the immediate and immense loss, the journey was one of silent reverence that i endured with a heavy heart.
spain has declared three days of mourning and airline officials are launching a full investigation into the causes of the crash.