[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/02/13/plane.crash.new.york/art.buffalo.crash1.bee.jpg caption="Only a few pieces of the Continental Connection Dash 8 turboprop were recognizable after the crash. "]
Dr. Gail Saltz
Practically on the heels of the triumphant success of the US Airways flight ‘splash landing’ in the Hudson River, comes the tragically opposite outcome of the plane crash near Buffalo, NY last night. As if the fragility of life needs to be underscored any further right now, many Americans are struggling with various fears about the precariousness of their situations. They are hoping that this new President will find a way to provide protection and solutions. This crash is a sad reminder that life contains inherent risk and that try, as we all might, sometimes bad stuff happens anyway.
It is tragic that 50 innocent people have lost their lives….but what we all need to remember is that this is truly a fluke. This is the first fatal crash since 2006. Airplane crashes are actually rare, much more unusual than fatal car crashes. Yet plane crashes play on our most instinctual fears. People are often afraid of heights and the idea of being high in the sky in a heavy piece of metal leaves us all feeling scared and amazed that this doesn’t happen more often.
Fears of flying are amongst the most common of the simple phobias. Also, the idea that you can be sitting supposedly secure in your home but get killed by an airplane crashing through the roof makes it seem as if there is no truly safe place. It is our identification with the victims on board these planes AND in the houses that at times bear the blow of these crashes, which creates our horror.
There is also the feeling that “the sky really is falling” that looms over us. Everyday there is bad news. Job loss, stock markets dropping, foreclosures rising. It is as though we are in a downward spiral and this influences the way we view an individual tragedy. Watching the burning wreckage can draw us into feeling like we are caught in a state of perpetual tragedy.
Hard as it may be to keep perspective, it is important to do so, perhaps now more than ever. Air crashes are rare. It is still safe to fly. If you are truly afraid, get treatment as fears of flying can respond very well to therapy. If you are feeling down and powerless in your current situation, make an effort to reach out and help others. Helping another really makes you feel useful and more in control, it is often the best thing you can do to help yourself.
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