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Granny’s Last Words Before the Plane Crash

A ghostly visit from my Irish granny spooked me before my flight home. Would everything be all right?

Granny’s Last Words Before the Plane Crash
Credit: Dori OConnell

The door creaked and my eyes snapped open. I sat bolt upright in bed. An old woman in a floor-length white nightgown with lace trim hovered in the doorway, her wispy gray hair piled on top of her head in a bun, her pale blue eyes full of life. Granny?

My favorite grandmother. The one who lulled me to sleep when I was young with tales of her childhood in Ireland, told in her soft brogue. Back then, Ireland was a far-off, magical land to me, a girl who hadn’t seen much more than rural Pennsylvania. I never dreamed I’d find myself married to a military man, living halfway across the world on a U.S. Army base in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. What was Granny doing here in my bedroom at two o’clock in the morning? She’d died 15 years earlier.

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I shook my head. Rubbed my eyes. Next to me, my husband, Frank, was out like a light. It must be a dream. I’d tossed and turned all night. Frank and I had moved to Germany three days after we were married. A year later, I gave birth to our son, Christopher. Now Frank’s three-year assignment was nearing its end, and in a few hours I’d be on a plane back home to the States. Frank was to follow us in six months. The thought of flying alone, just me and the baby, made me a nervous wreck. Now I was seeing things!

Granny tiptoed toward the foot of my bed. I clutched my blankets tighter.

“Everything’s going to be all right, dear,” she said. Her brogue made the words sound musical, like a lullaby. “Everything’s going to be all right. . . .”

Next thing I knew, it was morning. Only two hours to get Christopher ready and head to the airport in Frankfurt. I pushed the strange experience out of my mind.

The plane was a small four-engine model, military dependents only. Nine hours on a flight full of Army wives and crying kids. That would be interesting. But I was so tired from lack of sleep, I laid Christopher across my lap on a pillow and dozed off.

The cabin was dark when I reopened my eyes. Everyone was either sleeping or playing cards. Christopher snuggled in my lap. Such a good boy. I looked out the window. All at once an orange flash jumped from the right-side engine, the one closest to me.

That’s not right. I glanced across the aisle at the other window. Another flash! What was going on?

A flight attendant passed by with an empty tray. I tugged on the sleeve of her uniform. “I think the engines are on fire,” I whispered.

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I pointed out the windows on either side. Her eyes widened. She put a finger to her lips. “Shhhh!”

She raced to the front of the plane. I could see flames now, on both sides. Finally a voice came over the PA.

“Attention all passengers, this is your captain speaking. We are experiencing some mechanical difficulties. Please stay seated and put your heads between your legs. If your child is on your lap, place your body over them.”

The plane dipped. My stomach lurched. My seatmate made the sign of the cross. I held on to Christopher and did what the captain instructed. We were descending. Fast. I could feel the velocity.

“We will be making an emergency water landing,” the captain announced. “Please remain calm.”

Remain calm? What were the chances we’d even survive?

Then I heard it. The familiar Irish brogue spoken to me in those early-morning hours. Everything’s going to be all right. I relaxed. Closed my eyes. Took a deep breath. I believed those words. Believed God had sent them in a vision of my Irish granny.

The plane landed with a violent jolt. It bounced and skidded across the water and came to a stop. The flight attendant ushered us out of our seats to the emergency exit, where an inflatable slide and raft were waiting. I took off my shoes and slid down with Christopher securely in my lap. The cold ocean air hit me full force. I couldn’t see a thing. All I could hear was the sound of choppy waves thrashing against the raft and the downed plane.

The passengers huddled together. Nobody talked. I should’ve been terrified. Instead I was calm. Those words still played in my mind. Everything’s going to be all right.

Finally a ship appeared, to take us to shore. “Thank you for your patience,” the ship’s captain said when we were all safely aboard. “A plane will be coming tomorrow from London to get you back to the States. In the meantime, we’ll put you up in a hotel.”

“Where are we, sir?” the woman next to me asked.

“Just off the coast of Ireland. Near Shannon Airport.”

Shannon, Ireland. The very place where Granny was born.

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