28 Mar 2014

Resilience and optimism: waiting for news on MH370

It’s a truism to say that grief affects people in different ways. In the three weeks since MH370 disappeared, the relatives of those on board have been by turns distraught, angry, and calmly hopeful.

I interviewed Sarah Bajc just a moment ago, and was astonished at her resilience and optimism. An American teacher whose partner Philip Wood is one of the missing passengers, Bajc refuses to believe the worst until she has the evidence to prove it.

She’s firmly convinced there’s a chance the plane has been taken by hijackers and its passengers are currently being negotiated over.

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“Right now I’m wondering what the passengers on that flight are doing. Are they sitting in a detention centre someplace wondering if the world has forgotten about them because they realise that they’ve been kidnapped and perhaps nobody knows, or are they already in their final resting place?” she told me.

To some, her claims may smack of the nutty conspiracy theorist. But as the hunt for the missing jet approaches its fourth week, and the authorities embark on a whole new search area, you can hardly disagree with her analysis that those in charge have been at best clueless, at worst downright dishonest.

So Bajc is determined to discover the truth. It’s clear the almost frenetic activity she’s embarked on is in part a coping response. She’s set up a social media campaign which has reached 400,000 people. And she’s intent on keeping his spirit alive by sticking to the daily routines they shared together.

Inner fortitude

But what really struck me was her incredible poise. Who can blame the families whose anger and grief at the authorities has frequently boiled over, particularly as they’re required to come to terms with the most appalling tragedy in the public eye? Not for Bajc, though, such all-consuming grief.

I asked her how she managed to keep it together when she’s gone from hope to despair – at one point in the last three weeks asking for time to grieve, before once again summoning the strength to hope.

Her response, amazingly, was to start her answer with a joke. “It’s really good for losing a few pounds because it makes it difficult to eat – both finding time to do so and having an appetite.”

Few of us are tested in the way Bajc and the other relatives of those on board MH370 are now being tested. But I hope if I ever am, I can find the inner fortitude she has.

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2 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Cathy,

    No one who hasn’t suffered this kind of loss can imagine what these families have been through.

    Multiply it by 24 years and you get a mere outline of what the Hillsborough families have endured. The new inquest starts soon. What coverage will you give it? Equal to MH370? If not, why?

    If the Malaysian government has acted incompetently in this, it looks like raging efficiency in comparison to the evils perpetrated by the London government and its clerks over Hillsborough.

  2. Gerry Edwards says:

    Cathy

    I believe she is right to be optimistic . Look at the facts. If I were to hyjack an aircraft the best time would be between ATC when there could be a gap of 30 mins before realisation that the aircraft is missing. At this point one of the pilots could have come out of the cockpit to relieve himself since the aircraft would have been on Autopilot and flight crew activity at its minimum. This is the exact moment a potential hijacker could have made his move. Maybe the co – pilot was locked out of the cockpit and with a gun to his head the captain was forced to switch off the transponder. He probably pulled the stick back to destabilise the hijacker which sent the aircraft up to 45,000 ft. But this trick failed because the aircraft came back down to 23,000 ft. He didn’t initiate the 7500 alarm possibly due to another warning that any funny business would lead to a loss of life and curtains for the aircraft.

    My gut feeling is that the captain is not the villan that people are trying to paint. He was a master at flying this aircraft and could have flown anywhere within a 7,000 mile range. That includes Mogadishu – not unknown for hijacking. The aircraft hull value is worth up to $150 million plus pax of 1 million each gives a possible ransom of nearly half a billion. It would be the ransom of the century.

    We don’t know the fuel loading but I suspect it would be in excess of 100,000 ltrs and since the load was two thirds of total capacity it would have been possible to fly to Somalia – just. Remember the aircraft was flying at night and by 0800 when the last ping was detected it could have been on the Tarmac at Mogadishu. It would have been 0500 and still dark so no witnesses. The authorities would have whisked that aircraft into a hanger and they have the hangers big enough to store large Russian transports AN-220’s. It’s odd that phones were.still receiving calls 24 hrs later.

    I hope they don’t find MH370 debris in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps if they search 500 miles off Mogadishu they will be closer to the truth. Why would anybody want to fly due south from Malaysia into nothing?. I still have faith in that captain – he appears to me to be the best. But if he had a gun to his head he would do everything to save passengers and crew. The signature from the satellite could be wrong – they were wrong before saying the aircraft flew north. They are still clutching at straws. Hijacking is still a high possibility and hope for every passenger. Suicide is very low odds and I believe in the captain – he’s just not the type.

    One thing that is very clear is that the Chinese will never give up on this one even if they have to drain the Indian Ocean. If they do discover Somalia is behind this hyjack prepare for Mogadishu to be wasted. The Chinese will not pay any ransom.
    Maybe Somalia have got into this hijacking but now realise they cannot act.

    Hope is still out there.

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