Imagine a group of 11-year-old boys in Gimli, Manitoba 25 years ago, doing wheelies on the end of an abandoned runway at an airport that’s been closed for years.
Unfortunately, the guy who gassed Air Canada 767 jet in Montreal that morning for a flight to Edmonton, failed Metric Conversion 101. He’s barrelling down at the group because he filled the tanks by litres instead of gallons and the plane just ran out of gas at 12,000 feet.
The boys stop to look because they’ve never seen an airplane that big before. Suddenly, they’re all screaming and pedalling for their lives as the passenger plane plunges to the tarmac at the spot where they stood seconds ago. The metal behemoth skids sideways towards them and grinds to a deafening halt in a shower of sparks.
That was Kerry Seabrook’s near-death experience with the Air Canada jet, now known as the “Gimli Glider.” Gimli celebrated the 25th anniversary of the event last summer.
So, a month after the anniversary, while Kerry is still enjoying the notoriety of being the kid who cheated death by a rogue airplane, he’s driving his pickup truck, when: “Hey! Get away from me!”
Kerry has to drive into a ditch near Selkirk, Manitoba in order to avoid a head-on crash with a Cessna 207 airplane! The small plane with four on board was coming in for an emergency landing on the same rural road as Kerry. The vehicles missed each other by five feet [1.5 metres].
Kerry, who still believes he had the right of way, said he heard the wheels of the Cessna touch down beside his truck and escaped a second death-by-airplane experience. He’s kind of like an airport weather beacon with a bull’s-eye on his back.
Then there’s Roy, the U.S. park ranger, and the most attractive man in the entire United States of America - to lightning. Now, the chances of the average American being hit by lighting in his or her lifetime is one in 600,000. Between 1942 and 1977, Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times, earning him the title of the Human Lightning Rod.
Roy became an American legend. He could roast a marshmallow by holding it out the window during an electric storm. Roy could start a campfire without matches. He could light up a room by just walking into it.
And then there was the guy who became paranoid about the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, believing that with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, a hot war was about to break out. He was living in Alaska, which would be the firing line for an exchange of nuclear warheads over the ice cap.
So, he sold his small cattle ranch, took the money and his family to a place far from the rising storm of Soviet/American hostilities and bought a small sheep farm in the most peaceful and isolated islands of the Atlantic: the Falklands Islands.
That would have been early in 1982. Argentine forces occupied the islands in April. The Falkland Islands’ War with Britain broke out in May.
Quite likely he moved off The Falklands when the shooting started and probably bought himself a poppy farm in the highest, remotest mountains he could find - in Afghanistan, arriving just ahead of the dust cloud kicked up by the invading Soviet tanks.
So, for those who are feeling a little unlucky because the toast hits the floor jam side down, a fingernail gets broken in the car door, or a pet leaves a present on the lawn to step in - think of Kerry Seabrook, Roy Sullivan and a man who used his favourite sheep as a bulletproof vest.
Those guys are unlucky. Everyone else is just unco-ordinated.
SEPTEMBER 2009 - VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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