We were flying to Texas from Charlotte to surprise Stephen’s little brother, Paul, for his high school graduation party. We were able to get pretty good tickets on Southwest, plus you can check 2 bags for free, so off we went! First a layover in Houston, then on to Dallas Love Field. The flight into Houston was going fine, uneventful, like any flight should be. I was reading, Stephen was sleeping. There had been just a couple little drops of turbulence maybe 20 mins earlier. No biggie. Then Stephen gets hit in the face by an oxygen mask.
I heard a noise, and looked up to see oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling up and down the entire plane. Other passengers are looking around, pulling the masks down, putting them on, a little confused. I believe my exact words to Stephen, as he shook the sleep out of his eyes, were, “Oh, huh. I guess we’re…supposed to put these on?” I tried to figure out how to pull the mask down to put on, eyeing my fellow passengers to see what I was doing wrong. Turns out the masks are held up out of the way by a string, and you have to really yank on them to get it to disengage. As I put my mask on, I thought of numerous flight attendants on numerous flights over the years demonstrating how to put it on and pull the side elastic to tighten it. I looked out the window, hoping I wasn’t going to see flames coming out of the engine, or anything like that. The flight attendant came on over the speaker, ordering everyone to put their masks on. Now! We all had ours on by now.
The missing Malaysia flight briefly entered my thoughts before I dismissed it, focusing instead on breathing normally, then switching to my “yoga breathing”. Deep, slow breaths, feeling the air travel though your nose, lungs, expanding your belly. Then pushing it all out again. A simple prayer, “Dear God, please protect us. Please be with the pilots as they are dealing with whatever is going on. Please give peace to the screaming baby behind us.” That baby was NOT happy. He did not like the mask, did not want it anywhere near him. Finally a flight attendant made her way back to us, and she shoved the mask on his face.
Eventually the captain came on and told us we had descended down to 10,000 feet, and no longer needed the oxygen masks. The cabin pressurization system had failed at 36,000 feet, so the masks were deployed. The back-up pressurization system kicked in and worked, but since the masks had already dropped, we had to use them and then land. So we made what I am calling a semi-emergency landing in Birmingham, Alabama. That plane was obviously done for the day, so we all got reassigned to other flights. We were able to get on a flight directly to Dallas from there, so that was nice. While we were waiting for our flight to Dallas, I decided to check out Twitter to see what other passengers may have said about previous flight that forced us to land in Birmingham. I found only one person who had tweeted about it, a girl who said something along the lines of, “worst flight ever, oxygen masks dropped, I’m never flying Southwest again!” I guess she doesn’t realize that all major airlines use pretty much the same kind of plane, just with a different paint job. Also, we figure the odds are in our favor every time we fly now!