Monday, August 22, 2011

First Air 6560

Most people reading this will have heard about the terrible plane crash in Resolute Bay, Nunavut the other day. When I first learned of the accident, my gut twisted into knots. I worked for First Air from 1996-2003. My last two years with the company were spent in Resolute Bay, where, for four weeks at a time, I basically was the cargo department. C-GNWN, the plane that went down, is one I know well. I loaded and offloaded it hundreds of times. I had a sick feeling, before any specifics were public, that among the twelve victims were probably people I knew.

I finally found out that three of the people killed in the crash of Flight 6560 were old friends and acquaintances. Captain Blair Rutherford was an uncommonly good man. Airlines are like huge families, not only in positive terms. There is routinely a lot of melodrama, backbiting and gossip. For all that, Blair was a man I never heard maligned by anyone. I flew with him dozens of times and always appreciated his wry, quiet, good-natured humour. I have known his wife, Tatiana, even longer. She was a flight attendant when I first started working up north, and as feisty, smart and large-hearted a woman as you'd care to know. I remember being glad to hear that she and Blair, whose personalities complemented each other beautifully, were a couple--and gladder still when they married and had kids. And so it is with commensurate sadness that I think of her loss.

Two employees of South Camp Inn that I knew from my days in Resolute Bay were also killed. I didn't know Mike and Randy exceptionally well, but they were good guys. I especially enjoyed Mike's ribald banter whenever he came to the First Air freight shed to pick up cargo for South Camp. Aziz Kheraj, the owner of South Camp (he also became mayor of Resolute while I lived there), also suffered a terrible family loss in the crash. His two young granddaughters were on the flight, and one of them died. So my thoughts are with Aziz and his large extended family, which includes my old friend and First Air colleague Mavis. In a town the size of Resolute and at a tight-knit company like First Air, everyone is family. No words are adequate.


i.m. Blair Rutherford and First Air Flight 6560

This morning
twelve poppy blossoms
where last night
there was none.
Purple hearts bleed out
to pink, tissue-thin
I didn't plant the poppies.
A single volunteer
and proliferated
over years.
Their foliage is ugly
but I keep them
for these livid
blooms. On this windward
hillside, they can't last.
Each blast of air
carries off a petal.
At sundown
the stalks again
are bare.


John W. MacDonald said...

my condolences, zach. lovely, touching poem.

Anonymous said...

Well writ Zach.

Such a loss...

Cameron Arndt

Jeff Williams said...

Wonderfully said, Zach