Almost as soon as I heard about the Germanwings Airbus crashing into the Alps, I became suspicious, and with good reason. Usually, news of a plane crash reaffirms my irrational fear of flying. Irrational because in 2012, for example, less than 500 out of a whopping 3 billion airplane passengers died in a crash. That kind of safety record is almost mind-boggling. One is even tempted to think it's safer to sit 30,000 feet in the sky than to stand on your own two feet on a street corner. But when the news of the Germanwings crash reached me on Twitter, I began to weirdly recall parts of the Alps section in William Wordsworth's sweeping autobiographical poem The Prelude.
This section of the poem is about a hike the poet took with a college friend around the time of the French Revolution. “Downwards we hurried fast, and entered a narrow chasm...”; “the immeasurable height of woods decaying..."; "the stationary blasts of waterfalls..."; "the torrents shooting from the clear blue sky”—why on earth were these lines dislodged by the Airbus crash in the Alps, which killed 150 people? Where was my sympathetic feeling of profound dread? And then last night I learned that the black box for the flight provided investigators with this revelation: Moments before the crash, one pilot, Andreas Lubitz, is locked in the cockpit while another pilot, Patrick Sonderheimer, frantically knocks on the cockpit door. All of this sounds like Lubitz flew the plane into the Alps in much the same way Arab terrorists flew passenger planes into the Twin Towers in 2001.
When planes fall out of the sky by accident, they usually crash in places we have never heard of. No living thing can match the indifference of an accident. A plane that crashes into the Alps does not have the ring of this cosmic indifference. It has the ring of the human. A French prosecutor sees in all of this something as deliberate as a poem. He sees a crime.
"At this moment, in light of investigation, the interpretation we can give at this time is that the co-pilot through voluntary abstention refused to open the door of the cockpit to the commander, and activated the button that commands the loss of altitude..."As Dan points out, the crime that happened in NYC might have an echo in the crash that happened in the Alps.