The Suicide Seat, Part 2

This is the second part of my entry in the current Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the challenge is "Suicide Seat."  If you haven't read Part 1 yet, please read it before you read this.  Thanks!

The Suicide Seat, Part 2

He tells Benjamin the story now, and his heart breaks as he watches the tears roll down his son’s cheeks.  How could he have been so selfish, he wonders, so stupid.

“Take me with you,” Benjamin pleads. 

“I can’t do that, Ben. You’ve got Yale and your whole life in front of you. It wouldn’t be fair.  Come on, let’s go back.”

Neither has much interest in fishing now, and they row back to the lodge.  After a dinner neither can eat, they pack their bags in silence, each lost in his own misery.


“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the seat belt sign. Please return to your seats and secure your seat belts. Return your tray tables and seat-backs to their original upright positions. We are approaching Logan Airport and will be landing shortly.”

Paul awakens with a jolt at the sound of the flight attendant’s voice.  Sleep eluded him last night, as he lay listening to unhappiness invade Ben’s dreams, and he is exhausted.  He knows Ben must be too.  The drone of the engines lulled both of them to sleep early into the flight from Bangor.  Shows how tired I am, Paul thinks.  Despite being in first class, booked as a special treat for Ben, I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane, and this time is no exception. Not enough leg room, what with the bulkhead right in front of us.  Lopsided recline.  Noisy galley, if you can call something with no food a “galley.” The steady parade of people heading toward the restroom.  And of course, the crying baby somewhere behind him.  About the only thing these seats have going for them is that they are next to the window on one side of the 2x2x2 row.  

He shakes himself out of his reverie and nudges Ben awake. 

Their plan originally was to spend a couple of days in Boston before heading home to New Jersey, but now Paul wonders if either of them is up for it.  He looks out the window as the harbor islands appear beneath the plane. He can see the city skyline ahead.  It’s raining, but Boston looks great.  The rain is supposed to end, and Paul decides that a couple more days before going home to reality will be a couple more days for Benjamin to get used to the idea that he has to leave. And if he is honest with himself, it will help him get used to the idea too. God, he will miss his son.  But better that Ben’s dad be a continent away than dead.

As he watches the ground come up to meet the plane, Paul feels a sudden burst of adrenalin that causes him grip the arm rest tightly.  He is not a nervous flier, but he knows that something is wrong.  As he watches, he sees the end of the runway pass just below the plane and move out of sight.  He’s flown into Boston often enough to know they should have touched down by now.  The plane is moving too fast! 

It seems to Paul that way too much runway has passed before he finally feels the wheels jolt down on the pavement, bounce off, and then hit again.  Too fast! Oh, my God, too fast!  We are going to crash!   As the plane tears down the runway, he can feel the brakes attempt to stop the huge aircraft.  The DC-10 is slowing, but Paul doubts if it will slow down soon enough to stop before something else stops it.  Like the terminal or another plane. 

Although it seems like he is watching events unfold in slow motion, they happens so quickly that he can’t even warn Benjamin.  But he grasps Ben’s hand tightly and says, “I love you!”

The plane veers off the runway into a grassy area in the middle of the air field and continues to skid on the wet grass.  Almost before he can register what’s happening, it passes over a taxiway, and comes to a sudden stop.  There is an enormous tearing, screeching, crashing sound, and he sees the bulkhead in front of him begin to move away.  Not possible, he thinks. And then, without warning, he and Ben are catapulted forward, hands still clenched. 


Sure he is having another heart attack, Paul struggles to breathe.  And then realizes he not only can’t breathe, he can’t move either.  And he’s really cold.  Like an avalanche, awareness of what just happened, what is happening now, crashes into his consciousness.  He is in the water, airline seat and all.  Benjamin!

He reaches out blindly to his left, and feels Ben struggling beside him.  He reaches down and pulls the lever on Ben’s seat belt and feels Ben surge away from him.  He unfastens his own belt, and kicks toward the surface, which isn’t far above him.  He breaks the surface of the cold water and coughs up the quart of Boston Harbor he has swallowed, replacing it with a gulp of air.  

A few yards away, he sees Ben, and beyond him, quite a distance away, the plane.  It sits at the edge of the land that is Logan Airport.  Most of it does, anyway.  Its nose is tipped into the water, leaning like a giant bird bent to take a drink.  And through the break at its neck, he can see Boston in the distance.

“Dad!”  He realizes Ben has swum over to him.  “Are you OK?”

“Yes, You?” he answers, silently thinking, I’ve always been pretty lucky, but this takes the cake.

Benjamin pulls on his arm and shouts in his ear, his voice frantic.  “Dad!  Let’s go!  Now!  NOW!!!”


“There was a near catastrophe at Logan Airport today when an Oceanic Airways flight overshot the runway as it attempted to land due to a mechanical failure.  The flight originated in Bangor, Maine and was scheduled to continue on to Los Angeles,” WXYZ-TV news anchor Beverly Michaelson reports.

“The pilots have been credited with saving over one hundred lives by leaving the runway just before crashing into the approach lights at its end.  Had the plane hit the large bank of lights, experts say it is likely the plane would have burst into flames.  The quick-thinking pilots veered just in time, and the plane continued skidding until its nose left the edge of the airfield and crashed into Boston Harbor. 

"The sudden drop from the field caused the plane to break apart just behind the forward galley.  Three passengers were seated in the first row in first class.  One, apparently seeing what was happening, climbed back into the main coach cabin. Two other passengers in that row, a father and son, are still missing.”

Co-anchor Matt Gordon says, “Amazing story.  The passengers have much to be thankful for.  Any word on the two missing people, Bev?”

“I'm sorry to say, no, Matt. Authorities tell me it is unlikely that they will ever be found. It’s presumed they were swept away by the current and out to sea. 

"Interestingly, Matt, some of the people I interviewed told me they avoid taking a seat in that row when they fly.  ‘The Suicide Seat,’ I think they called it.

“And, now, let’s see what Freddie and the weather have in store for the weekend.”


Though I’ve obviously taken some liberties, this story was inspired by the following news event.  It took place nearly 30 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it. I always wondered what happened to those two missing passengers.

On January 23, 1982, World Airways Flight 30 from Newark to Boston made a non-precision instrument approach to runway 15R and touched down 2800 feet past the displaced threshold on an icy runway. When the crew sensed that the DC-10-30-CF couldn't be stopped on the remaining runway, they steered the DC-10 off the side of the runway to avoid the approach light pier, and slid into the shallow water of Boston Harbor. The nose section separated as the DC-10 came to rest 250 feet past the runway end, 110 feet left of the extended centerline. 2 passengers (a father and son) were never found and are presumed to have been swept out to sea.


  1. What a gripper of a story. Sad but with just a glimmer of hope to hold on to.

  2. onteresting take on the news story...had to go back to that last scene with them as it took me a second...bet this was fun to write...nicely done patti

  3. Quite a sad and frightening tale...and so interesting that it is based on an actual news story.

  4. Mary: I'm glad it gripped you. I was totally fascinated with those two people when the accident occurred. As you read in the end report, the water in Boston Harbor off the airport isn't terribly deep, and there are many small islands. How did they just disappear?

    Brian: Yes, it was fun to write. I read somewhere that writing a fight or a sex scene takes pages of words to do well. I suspect writing a plane crash could too. But I took pity on ya'll.

    Janice: That news story has been haunting me for years. The plane crash was no doubt terrifying, but not fatal to anyone but the two in the front seat, who totally disappeared. No bodies. You've got to wonder. An aside: My husband's boss was on that flight. He went to work the next day.

  5. I like the way your story handles that little mystery. Well done. Well thought out. Beautifully told and written.

  6. I enjoyed this a lot, both from the variances in style and from the story (and it's historical tie-in... I love that stuff).

    Still noticing that syntax thing we discussed.

    This would make a good movie. Might you continue this story?

  7. Lou: Thank you. I'm so happy you liked it.

    Jeff: Kudos to you for your expert guidance.

  8. What a fascinating genesis for a story, Patti. You have linked it through so well, and having the information in Part 1 yet the explaation in Part 2, was inspired. Getting a story line like this is a godsend for an aspiring writer.

    Hit me later, but I have a hassle ... if they were under the water,how strong do you reckon Paul would have to be to release the seat mechanism in the way described?

  9. Julie: Ah, maybe I'll hit you now. ;-)

    Actually, the water in Boston Harbor just off Logan Airport is not very deep, according to nautical charts. The part where the plane nose sat is about 7-12 feet deep. That's one reason I thought the whole "swept out to sea" thing was a little suspect (and thus the seed of the story was sown). The harbor is also dotted with little islands, and not too far away from where the plane went in, the water is even more shallow. They would have been under water, but not very deep and with no water pressure to speak of.

    Given that I had them catapult away from the plane as a result of the impact, they technically could have landed in 2-3 feet of water. But that wouldn't have worked for the story.

    If you are interested, there are four pictures here.

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate them.

  10. Checked out the four photos, Patti. I would agree that being swept out to sea is sus.

    I also agree with Jeff, that this is a story line worth persevering with.

    Have you seen the coronial report into the two people who went missing?

  11. Julie: I doubt there was a "coronial" report (and today I learned a new word!) as no bodies were ever found (to my knowledge, which I grant is extremely limited.)

    When I searched the Internet, I found one obscure mention within the scores of reports that said "missing and presumed dead." It said that the two passengers had "left the scene, and were later prosecuted for trying to defraud the airline." But it was the only report that said that, so I'm inclined to doubt its veracity.

    In any case, it doesn't really matter to the story, which is fiction, after all.

  12. Amazing inspiration from this real life event. Heartbreaking, the father and son being lost. I like how you filled in the blanks, Patti.

  13. Had to set aside a block of time to read this two-part series (voraciously) from end to end. And then I had to go and do the required background reading. Patti, you've got a gift for relating a story in a way that holds the reader's attention more tightly than rivets on aircraft wings.

    Need I say that I thoroughly enjoyed your take on this prompt? Make that a hell YEAH.

  14. willow: Thank you! It is tragic that, by virtue of coincidence of seating, they were lost. Unless...

    Ti: I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Voraciously, even. Am I flattered? Hell YEAH!

  15. I like how you took your inspiration from real life and you left us with questions there in the end. What is next? Would like to see a continuation of this one.

  16. this was a great, gripping read. good pacing, narration --- and love the tie-in to a real life event. didn't see the ending coming, and as willow says, i too appreciate your take on what might have happened to the father and son.

  17. This was wonderful... I couldn't wait to read part two after the first part. And part two did no disappoint.


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.