the haunting


I’m sitting here in Cosi, doing research for the latest book project, when my wife showed up and said, “Did you hear about the plane that disappeared?”

I hadn’t—then I looked it up.

Haunting. That’s the word that immediately entered my head, and I’m open to suggestions for a better one. Thousands of people die every day across the globe, from causes ranging from cancer and diabetes to car crashes and the flu. Yet there’s something about the mid-air plane disaster that unnerves the brain and body; something just so incredibly awful and disturbing.

Besides the mere unnaturalness (for lack of a better word) that accompanies commercial flight (200 people in a metal tube 35,000 feet above ground, placing your trust in a person you’ve never met while munching on a small bag of pretzels and watching Marley & Me to pass the time), I think the discomfort is how, in a singular moment, life (click) stops. With illness, there’s a chance to adjust. With a car crash, many endure pain before death—if there is, indeed, death. With a plane disaster, however, unless the circumstances are truly, truly unique, you die. Life here, life over.


The timing of my wife’s arrival was actually sort of strange, in that I had just been researching a crash that took place 15 years ago. On Sept. 8, 1994, USAir Flight 427, a Boeing 737 coming to Pittsburgh from Chicago, crashed and killed all 132 people on board. One of the passengers was a former Kansas State linebacker named Dan Ruzich, who had enjoyed a brief cup of coffee in camp with the Chicago Bears. While scanning through the casualty list from that day, I was struck by the following:

Row 18

Lee Weaver, 62, Upper St. Clair

Earl Weaver, 50, Upper St. Clair

Kathleen Weaver, 44, Upper St. Clair

Brian Weaver, 16, Upper St. Clair

Lindsay Weaver, 11, Upper St. Clair

Scott Weaver, 7, Upper St. Clair

Devastating. Six members of the same family—three of them children—killed. I found this piece on the Weavers, which only heightens the heartbreak. I just can’t help but think what these kids would have become. Scott, now 22. Lindsay, now 25. Brian, now 31. What would they be doing? Who would they have married? Would they make history? Have 9-to-5 jobs at the local deli? The tragedy—we’ll never know. Somewhere out there, Brian Weaver’s wife is married to someone else … haunting. Just haunting.

Now add another 228 victims to the list. Life comes—blink—life goes.

I beg of you—of me: Cherish it.