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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'out of a black cloud came a bird'

this is an on the ground unedited 'as it happened' commentary of a plane crash at lukla airport in nepal nov 08

i am at lukla airport, a plane has crashed on landing as i am waiting to get a flight to kathmandu, pasang dawa called me outside from departures to tell me about a new hotel and transfers from the airport, i was talking to a german man when hundreds of people started running out and down the runway, a buddist nun to my left starts wailing, a friend put his arms around her, there seems to be one survivor who is now in departures, my english friend, a heart consultant is with him and an english medical student called michaela, i think the survivor is nepali or sherpa, maybe in pilots clothes, there is blood, i heard from a german translation that there was a fatal confusion between the plane taking off and one coming into land, it is a cloud covered misty morning, it seems the plane came in too low onto the very short steep runway, there was a fireball on impact, i hear some germans getting their sherpa guide to rebook their rooms in lukla, now rumours abound, there is the smell of burning fuel in the air, people are milling, some are crying, there is shock, the german man i was speaking to is staring out the window, i am very cold in my down jacket, another woman is crying, i need to speak to ‘light in dark places’, i must speak to my sister and my mother and father, i must get a message to them before the rumours do, i see three men walking across the runway, one military, two civilian carrying rifles, i left my little plastic pearl necklace i bought with ‘light in dark places’ with the prayer flags over the pass at zetra la, the heart consultant just ripped down a dividing wall to use as a makeshift stretcher for the survivor, there is a hospital here at lukla, but there is nothing in the hospital, its empty, this airport has no emergency procedure whatsoever, there is a bad smell, people are watching voyeuristically, i am writing voyeuristically…i am fixed to the page, i have stayed out of the way, there are so many people trying to help and seemingly some qualified medical people that were actually at the airport waiting to board the plane with me, i don’t believe i can be of use, i wonder if my notebooks would survive a plane crash, an american couple next to me at the himalaya lodge this morning were talking about the possibility of a plane crashing, their sherpa guide hushed them saying these things are not spoken of in this country, that to speak this way brings bad luck, children are running about excitedly, men are gathering at the windows, there is a glint of facination and excitement, a crime scene, i hope this doesn’t make the news at home or there will be panic, i must get word to them….i am selfishly thinking about my bag which is ready outside to board a plane, ‘silverback’ i havn’t told him i love him, would the letter back at the summit hotel in kathmandu get to him eventually if i had been in that plane?, a woman is shouting outside, a medic i think, i am very cold, i gave dawa sherpa my knife as i was running for the plane very early this morning, i was given a 5 min ‘get out’ as pasang dawa had managed to get me a plane ticket, a helicopter has just taken off perhaps with the survivor, somebody filmed it, i think about ringing ‘silverback’ and then i cry, i cry for me not them…i always cry for me, a few feet away people are burning in their seats, families, lovers, children devastated and changed forever, irretrievable…the reality: the plane i was supposed to be on crashed on landing….i need to tell him, i must tell him…one survivor…a german man asks if i am ok?, where do i come from? am i alone?...the place has cleared somewhat..i wonder about my baggage…ma and pa are up on the mountain making their way to high camp on mera peak…the pilot survives, the co pilot is dead in a blue bag on a trolley over there, his burnt feet are sticking out…i am sitting outside now with the heart consultant, an american is phoning home on his sherpa’s phone, we hear that it was a german party on the plane, yeti airlines, not my plane afterall, they say local people were stealing luggage and rucksacs from the crash sight as bodies burned in their seats (the value of a pair of walking boots would probably support a family here for a year), someone was spooning water from a stream with a washing up bowl to put out the fire, the passengers were killed by burning fuel…i have called ‘light in dark places’ and asked him to get a message to my sister, the phone cut off but i got the message through, i called ‘silverback’ and left a message on the answer machine, i called from himalaya lodge, someone was on the internet looking at pictures of the crash, my bags are back here now, i have been given room 104, dawa sherpa is erecting tents on the lodge lawn for a morgue…they seem to have been taken down now, the heart consultant and michaela did the best they could, the co pilot died on the runway, the heart consultant saw him alive but then he died, locals were telling him to massage the co pilots chest, bring him back to life but the heart consultant said he was very dead, pasang dawa is supposed to get sonam to sms pasang sherpa on the mountain and let ma and pa know whats happened and that i was not on the plane..don’t know if that’s happened but at least my sister knows, she will probably have the initiative to sms them on the satellite phone, a big military helicopter has just landed, a crowd of people are out on the lawn, the buddist nun is there too with her robe over her head, she is in mourning i would hazard, the german man who was about to catch the plane with me and share the transfer at kathmandu wonders what the german government will make of this, pasang dawa took me to a table and introduced me to his friends, suggested we eat together and then go for a walk to his mothers house down in a village below lukla, i did not feel like joining them, the buddist nun is in the party, i keep writing, the blue, green and red roofs of lukla, body bags, i am traumatized by hearing ‘silverback’s’ voice on the answer machine, stretchers are coming up the runway now to the military helicopter, an old crippled dog lies on the lawn, reminds me of venus’s dog, the daughter of pasang dawa’s brother works here, she came and asked me for 400 rupees for the two phone calls, she reminds me of janey madlani, i wonder if janey has sherpa blood, i am still freezing, i have put my thermals on now i have my bag back, the dead co pilot in the blue bag was lying next to my jagged globe bag with my ice axe and crampons unused, i am craving salt, perhaps whiskey, dawa sherpa is walking the lawn, a trauma medic who was also at the airport assisted as far as the first helicopter that took the pilot to hospital, he is sitting on the the lawn with his girlfriend witness to continuing events, a black crow pecks at the earth, two moths in my room, one half dead or half alive depending…i let them out the window, there are too many people crowded round the military helicopter as usual, there are always too many people, the black crows are circling above the prayer flags, more people are at the helicopter…what is wrong with these people?…years ago i gave my father a book called ‘himalaya dreaming’, i found it in a junk shop on archway road with ‘silverback’, same place i found my brown leather hat, there is a picture of pasang dawa on the back, very young maybe twelve or fourteen years old, smiling broadly in a yellow jumper, there is a thick fog now, i think the helicopter with the bodies is preparing to go, i am not in there, i wish ‘light in dark places’ was here, the crippled dog sniffs the air as the blades begin to turn, the crippled dog stands and hobbles a little closer, he breaks into an awkward trot, his tail is up, he is seeing them off, ‘silverback’s’ friend was supposed to be on the plane that crashed over locherbie, he missed his flight, the helicopter is off the ground, RAN 38, it moves away down the runway and into the clouds, the crowd begins to disperse, a crow lands in a tree, it is raining, the american couple at breakfast walk into the lodge looking very white, the old dog hobbles past the rooms i stayed in with ma and pa on our incoming journey, i remember that the heart consultant told someone with a camera at the scene to fuck off, i think he is in shock though stoic and english, i don’t want to see the crash scene again, i wonder how and when i will get out of here, there are no roads into lukla, it’s completely cut off cept for the airport, it’s a three day walk to a bus for an eight hour journey to kathmandu, i consider this, we are nothing, isn’t that right? just a scratch, we were supposed to come down from zetra la today, me and dawa sherpa, we made it back a day early, i think all communications here are done by satellite so it doesn’t make a difference if you call a landline or mobile, very erractic connection, i think the cloud cover is clearing, the weather here is in constant turmoil, lukla is nearly two miles above sea level, i am looking out the window, now i hear ‘the tyre didn’t work’ when the plane attempted to land, i see an australian man, an older man, earlier i saw him howling into a mobile phone, he was saying that he wished it was him that was dead instead of them, he’s not crying now, the buddist nun is back at the table with pasang dawa, i hope and pray that my mother and father are ok, perhaps i will walk to the internet shop, i lost the details of how to contact the satellite phone, i should email my sister and she can tell them to call her and she can explain, its unclear if pasang dawa has asked sonam to send an sms to pasang sherpa up the mountain, the heart consultant talked about getting a helicopter out of here, i would buy into that…me and my writing…i’m still fixed to the page…i wonder if it seems cold and remote to others, people are taking comfort in humour and one another..i have been looking for ‘heart stones’ up in the mountains, i have my whiskey, i am warmer, my feet are in a cold sweat, i had a dream many years ago, maybe twelve, that a plane crashed into the sea, i was trying to get people out of the fusilage but a firm disembodied hand stopped me saying i must not interfere with karmic law, the following day there was news of such a plane crash, at dawn this morning i woke with bonnie prince billy lyrics in my head ‘at the break of dawn, I’m ending all of it…’ i don’t like this song very much ‘so don’t say we had a ball…’, a flying phobic looks for threads and connections, the german man i was supposed to transfer with keeps looking in my direction, pasang dawa’s brother comes over and asks me for my plane ticket and boarding pass, he wants the cover it was supposedly issued in but i was never given one, he himself issued the ticket to me this morning, i was sitting in bed, curled up in my sleeping bag very early this morning doing the i ching when dawa sherpa banged on my door and tried to come in (as he has done in the lodges on other occasions when we were alone in the mountains together), he said to come very quickly, that i have a ticket for the plane, i have a bucket full of pee next to the bed and thank god (depending how you like to think) i didn’t have to put away my ‘impossible to put away’ thermorest, i had seriously overheated in the night at this lower altitude and thrown off most of my clothes, my face is nearly back to normal after becoming a very swollen and flattened with altitude (i looked like i had been in a boxing ring, eyes fat and closing) but i look knackered and didn’t sleep well, i have minutes to pack and load out, dawa sherpa is still at the door trying to get in the room, i am getting angry but keep it at bay by the means i always use, cold, remote, shielded, unreadable and unapproachable, i lock down inside, retract my feelers and harden my shell, the job is done and i soften as dawa sherpa the lama is actually kind to me despite his wayward hands, which though annoying are a lack of education and like all of us he is just operating with the tools he has been given…i am rushed downstairs and dawa sherpa disappears with my back breaking bag, i am given black tea and the urgency seems to abate, can’t remember much now but pasang dawa’s brother hands me a ticket maybe at the airport which is about a 100ft from the lodge, pasang dawa himself says something about a different hotel…i didn’t catch its name, transfers etc, the summit hotel is fully booked, pain in the arse as i have to go there to get my left luggage, my computer etc, i have been told i’m on the first flight out, when i meet the heart consultant at the airport our tickets are different colours, mine is yellow, maybe ‘silverback’ could walk across that lawn towards me…what would he do though?..don’t know..perhaps he wouldn’t be angry, he apologized to me when ‘pig’ died, as if the ‘real thing’ broke his cloud cover….is all this why i always see that lone red prayer flag on the mountainside in my blindspot?..the sound now of something about to fly, i wish it wouldn’t…can i overland home? ‘light in dark places’ would come with me..i don’t have to go to japan if i don’t want to, i have a map of India, ‘light in dark places’ gave it to me, another helicopter leaves, the one that brought the crash investigators, i need some foot warmers now, two girls have just arrived from the mountains, they look healthy and bemused but they have heard the news as they walked into lukla, they seem unburdened unlike the rest of us who will have it for the rest of our lives, it has happened and that cannot be changed…now i feel my shock and grief are no longer using ‘silverback’ as a filter, those 20 people burned alive as i was watching, i didn’t hear a thing, just the nun wailing as the horror made itself known..hundreds of people tipped and spilled, down the runway into the vortex of a terrible coming

my diary was not supposed to end like this

the american couple are beginning to argue, they are down the hall, they are shouting

there is a picture of me and dawa sherpa at the zetra la pass in the clouds with the prayer flags, it was taken by a beautiful blonde german man, it’s the only picture worth keeping other than the magical bull yak, the yaks were incredible that night at chutenga tea house, i had to go for a piss in the night and they had completely surrounded our tents, they were silent cept for a low moan and the near soundless knocking of a bell, a cloudless, moonless night sky, bewildering stars

for some reason the slip given to me by the woman who looks like janey madlani for the phone calls has fuel intake, plane weight etc on the back of it, i keep the slip (the plane exploded in such a devastating way because it was carrying so much fuel)

does this country act as a catalyst for ones deepest darkest fears?..or is this thought just my self obsessed solipsistic nature realised

i fly out of lukla the following morning on the 2nd flight out, we fly over the wreckage, i fly out with the wailing nun, it turns out the wailing nun is infact the singing nun, very famous in nepal and currently no.1 in the nepali charts, people want their picture taken with her at kathmandu airport

i was just talking to an australian called rob by the pool, he and his friends were all supposed to be on the flight that crashed, he said in hushed tones that the german party had pushed in front of them (they still actually have tickets for the plane that crashed), it was reported back home in australia that they had been on the flight…he says that they are all being quite philosophical about it, they are mostly paramedics and therefore somewhat trained or prepared to look these things in the eye…they would have been on that flight cept for the fatal eagerness of the other party



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this last night, and woke up early - 5am -and thought about all you wrote, and it has come in and out of my mind all day. It is very vivid, shocking yet dreamlike and slow motion. Although I have never experienced anything like this, it strikes a deep chord. I think that such an experience takes much time to integrate. I find your writing rich and evocative.

10:58 PM  
Blogger claymonster said...

This is terrible and beautiful at the same time.
I am glad you are safe, and sad that you had to experience such a tragedy up close & personal.
Thank you for sharing this through your genius use of words.

3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry left my comment on wrong post, meant to say it here.
Your writing evokes how easy it is for one to get locked in a sensory loop where every little thing leads inexorably back to the one big thing - hope all concerned can find their way out and beyond. xx

12:29 AM  
Blogger Lowered2010 said...

I am now listening to my copy of the new Ruby Throat CD "Out of a Black Cloud Came a Bird"... and I understand it a lot better after reading this. As always your music is amazing and just keeps getting better. In fact, I haven't seen a thing you've done yet that isn't provocative, evocative, and beautiful to take in. Keep it up, and I, too, am glad you made it out of this thing safely.

Damon Savich,
lead vocal "The Lowered"

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:32 AM  
Blogger 月亮 said...

留言支持好作品~加油!期待進步和更新 ....................................................

5:17 AM  
Blogger mrjones said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

幽默並不是諷刺,它或許帶有溫和的嘲諷,卻不傷人,它可能是以別人,也可以用自己為對象。 ..................................................

2:15 AM  
Blogger ColeMarie Soleil said...

P.S *please do not approve this either* I genuinely want to thank you too... I get weird creepy fans too (not on your level please do not think I could ever relate or compare I know I can't...) I genuinely... god I feel like I'm sucking up I'm really not... gah... I know you must get this a lot... I am trying hard not to come across creepy I just want to tell you something to maybe make you smile... after all you are still just a person like me and need encouragement... but... if you ever have sad days and get down on yourself... please remember there are people like me who have been genuinely healed by what you do and appreciate that you are you. I know I sound like I'm kissing your ass... I really am not but... without explaining myself... you really saved my life. I am glad you exist. Wherever you are. You changed someone's life. If I ever make it in music. I swear to god. I will do nothing but preach Katie Jane. You are a real life faerie. Thank you for existing. You are a magical wonderful inspiring creature... and now my ranting is over... I apologize. Sort of. I think you are great. I know you are still just some girl with a dream to do music that was actualized but... You show me if I believe in me I can do what I love too. I really appreciate you. Thank you. With my soul really. I love you. Gah. I sound weird. I will go. I apologize <3


(sorry... some random feeling made me share... I've loved you since I was little though :) You rule Katie :) Keep being awesome. Thank you for being my major inspiration and a reason to get off the floor everyday <3)

12:47 AM  

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