The plane hit hard, the dust rose, and, for a split second, I had no idea what the hell had just happened. Then, once the realization hit me, I got this sick feeling, a sinking spell in my gut that threatened to knock me out of active participation in my only job just then—being a pilot—and I felt like crying but didn’t, thank goodness. As I battled my desire to run away from the hard reality I now faced, one thought reverberated, hollow, like an empty hangar with a single thought: “What had I just done?”
Let me set the stage. This happened back in the mid-1990s. I wasn’t a new pilot, just one who didn’t have much experience. I started flying and got my Private when I was a kid—thanks, Mom and Dad—but took a lot of time off for college. I enrolled in a large Southern California university and signed up for what was then a new major, something called “Computer Science.” For four years, I battled bugs, wrote code and had fun outside of class hanging out with my fellow computer nerds. We were, I swear, way cooler than you might think (we told ourselves)!