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Of Lambs and Planes and Kidnappings

Okay, so I'm minding my own business last night and my boy comes running in. "Dad, Dad! We have a dead lamb." Oh, baloney, we don't either. I go out to the stalls and sure enough, lying on the ground dead is the lamb that was running and playing not two hours ago. What question would be in your mind?

Whenever an airplane crashes, the NTSB goes in and looks everything over and comes up with a cause of the accident. Often as not, the cause turns out to be pilot error. I had a buddy that used to get mad whenever he heard that conclusion. He was planning to be a pilot, and he took it as a personal insult. "They always say pilot error. What are they saying, that pilots are stupid?"

As a pilot myself, I had a contrasting view on the subject. Whenever I heard about a plane crash, I would search for where the pilot screwed up. What dumb thing did he do (that I, of course, would never do) that got him killed? Maybe there was something that this guy overlooked that I could learn from reading the report and thus prevent the same thing from happening to me. The last thing I wanted to hear was "The guy did everything right and he died."

I started my car to go to work Wednesday morning and the radio was on the station I always listen to. " . . . that the suspect was wearing a white denim jacket and white cap." Suspect? What? What's going on? As I listened, I figured out that a 14 yr. old girl had been taken from her home. Right away the host asked, "The neighborhood where she was taken, isn't that a pretty well-to-do area?" Now, there are a couple of reasons you'd ask that. First, maybe there's a hope that a ransom note might show up. But what I heard being said was: things like that aren't supposed to happen in neighborhoods like that; neighborhoods where you and I and the radio host live.

When I hear of anything bad happening, I look for the same thing I look for when a plane crashes.What did the victim do (that I would never do) that brought this terrible thing about? Stupid parent, let her hang out in bars all night with sleazy people. Of course she's going to find a boyfriend and run away. Abusive dad, drug user mom, out-of-control child that got no parental guidance . . . None of these explanations seem to fit in this case. That's what scares us. By all appearances, the parents didn't do anything wrong. You can love your kid, raise him right, lock the doors and wake up in the morning to a world where he is gone.

Of all the things sick and wrong about the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, the thing that gnaws at us is the specter that it could have happened to us.

People I've talked to are looking for the same explanations. "Expensive house like that, they should have an alarm" one person said. They did. They didn't set it. That's it, that's where they screwed up. But who goes to bed on a weeknight in a nice neighborhood thinking, "Oh, better set the alarm so some psycho doesn't come in through my kitchen window with a gun and steal my kid"?

In a way, this is like 9-11. Looking back some people now say,"What signs did we miss? Where did we screw up?." I have some problems with the way the questions are being asked, but the sentiment is valid: If we can figure out what we did wrong, we can prevent this in the future.

You carefully put away any bad chemicals that a lamb might eat, and you find it dead. The control surface was fine when you pre-flighted the plane and it just falls off in flight. You lock the doors and kiss your girl good night and in the morning she's gone.

That's where this treatise ends. No clever phrases, no brilliant conclusions. If you have any answers, I'd be thrilled to hear them.

Frank Leany

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