That's how close Monday's plane crash was from our home. As I stood on a neighbor's balcony yesterday at noon and watched the blazing homes across the gully, it felt close, too close but not that close. But last night as Bill and I reviewed maps we realized that despite the homes, streets and canyon that separate us, we live just 1700 ft. from the crash site. And it appears from news reports and the flight's trajectory, that the plane was--moments before impact-- right above our home.
I noticed the plane as my mom and I drove home from buying fabric for our Primary Christmas pageant. We were driving north on Genessee up the hill that we refer to as the 4-corner gas stations. At the bottom of the hill we saw a fighter jet heading toward Zoey's elementary school. Low -flying planes are common in our neighborhood but something about this one caught my attention. I don't know if it was because it made no sound or if my peripheral vision registered that it just had dumped fuel. Anyhow my eyes were following it when a ball of fire burst out. I saw a parachute and part of the plane fall to the ground. At that moment my mind did a funny thing. I decided it must be a model plane--a large one--an experiment from the middle school; it was coming from that direction. That tiny parachute couldn't be a person, that couldn't be a real fighter plane hurtling towards my neighborhood. That hypothesis only lasted a moment, as we came further up the hill we saw the towering plume of smoke. Where was the smoke coming from? It looked like it could be coming from the school or our home. Zoey was at the school, the boys were home with a babysitter. It was a short, terrifying drive.
Everyone has a different story. Maybe because it was garbage day, many described the noise like a garbage truck crashing. That's what the boys heard. I think Will is still confused and thinks the fire he saw was started by a garbage truck. Lizzy was in orchestra doing auditions. She said someone had just finished playing. There was a loud bang and they continued with the auditions despite the continual sound of sirens. My friend Teresa Rizzo was upstairs in her house when she heard a deafening noise. She looked out her bathroom window and saw something fall from the sky. Then the house behind her burst into flames. Her first thought was that it was a bomb.
Bill was at a conference in San Francisco, when he received a couple of nerve wracking messages. First one from his dad about a plane crash at Miramar. He didn't think too much of that. After all we live a couple miles from the Marine base. But the next message was from the elementary school telling parents that all children had been accounted for. Then he started to worry. He was relieved when he called home and the answering machine picked up. At least, he knew, our home was still standing. Not long after that I called him and reassured him that we were all safe. Lots of neighbors were on the news giving eyewitness accounts. After school Zoey saw the parachute from a neighbor's backyard. The plane's canopy landed just a block from us. On our walk to school this morning we passed marines guarding homes with large pieces of debris. Nobody I know seems to know well the family that perished. But we all keenly feel their loss. Everyone keeps saying the same thing, "It could have been us."