Appreciating Life: Lessons of MH370 & MH17

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To say Malaysia has been unlucky in 2014 is kind of an understatement. Losing two of our national carrier, Malaysia Airlines planes, under tragic circumstances can’t exactly be described as encouraging. Then there was the death of revered opposition icon, Karpal Singh, the spate of kidnappings in Sabah by suspected southern Philippines militants, our young Muslim men fighting alongside militant fighters in Syria, the death of national singer Datuk Sharifah Aini and revered actor, Datuk Aziz Sattar, it’s safe to say that this year hasn’t been exactly a swell year.

While all the events mentioned have saddened us, let us focus on the earlier two mentioned incidents, mainly the twin plane incidents and what they have taught us. I cannot claim to be an expert on aviation, engineering, or disaster rescue, this is merely a personal commentary on the lessons we can learn from the twin tragedies, on a life standpoint as how I see it. First of all, the disappearance of MH370 has not exactly reached its conclusion. While the wreckage of the plane still has not been found and no trace of any of the passengers has showed up, the plane is still classified as missing. It is now believed to be buried deep in the depths of the Indian Ocean, in one of the remotest areas on Earth. As for the MH17 plane, it was shot by a missile and at the moment of writing, investigators are leaving due to fierce fighting among the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia separatists.

You could say that though one plane’s fate has been sealed, the other still remains up in smoke. To have two tragedies hitting the same airline in the span of only four months is unheard of. Perhaps this is a sign of the heavens trying to tell us something? Whatever it is, the signs are there and there is a message to be learnt that we must learn, whatever it may be, we have to figure it out. We Malaysians have to start questioning ourselves whether are we doing something wrong that we are now being punished in a matter of months?

Flight MH370 remains an enigma to many. There have been many theories, conspiracies and speculation as to what happened to the plane. From conspiracies ranging from getting sucked into a black hole, shot down in a military exercise, abducted by aliens, the plane stuck in the sky, you would have heard it all. Then there are the theories that the plane had electronics malfunction, caught fire and flew on until it ran out of fuel and plunged into the Indian Ocean. So now it goes that the plane is now somewhere buried in a watery grave, waiting to be found. Hopefully, the plane will be found, if not soon but maybe someday and put all the speculation to rest.

In the case of MH17, the plane did everything right. Through no fault of its own, it unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Following an internationally approved flight path does not put Malaysia Airlines in the wrong. The facts have stated that there were other planes that had flown the same flight path as MH17 either in front or behind it. MH17 had even followed the same flight path the previous day before it was shot and successfully completed it. On close inspection, it seemed that everything was relatively normal on the preparations of the flight. Setting off from Schippol Airport in Amsterdam heading to off to Kuala Lumpur should have been a routine plane flight and landing in Kuala Lumpur almost 12 hours later would have been a guarantee.

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But it was not to be. Fate had other plans in store for the flight. The plan was unfortunately caught in the crossfire of a war that was not of its doing. The Ukrainian-Russian conflict was an issue that had caught the attention of the world even before the downing of MH17. The pro-Russia separatists were known to have shot Ukrainian military aircraft with missiles and they were immediately suspected as the culprits in the aftermath of the plane crash. No one however, has claimed responsibility for the shooting of the plane. Instead, you get both Ukrainian and Russian sides pointing fingers at each other as being responsible for the plane crash, with no definite answer. The West has, in the early days of the crash, blamed Russia as being responsible, imposing new sanctions of the country. Recently however, new evidence has pointed out that this could be the work of the Ukrainians. But until conclusive evidence has been put forward, no side shall be blamed, which, as the saying goes, innocent until proven guilty.

The perpetrators of this heinous and senseless crime however must be brought to justice. Otherwise, the 298 souls who lost their lives on that plane would have died for no reason. They died, caught in a war that they had no part of. Their deaths must be fought for, obviously through proper avenues, for the lost souls who had a right to fly on a safe commercial flight, and to reach their destinations and loved ones safely. Yet, because they never got that chance, their killers must be paid what is due to them. This also sends out a message to the world and aviation industry to prevent another recurrence of this tragedy and to ensure that every airline passenger who boards a plane is guaranteed to a safe flight and able to reach their destinations safely, without fear or fervour. Every human being has a right to demand to live their lives safely and far from the threat of danger; be it in war or natural disasters. These are basic human needs that are already recognised by the UN, which, for a more thorough analysis, please do check out the UN Charter. That both the Netherlands and Malaysia, who lost the most citizens on the plane, declared a National Mourning Day for the first time ever in both countries’ history, to welcome back their fallen citizens, speaks volumes about the value of human life after the bodies were mistreated in Ukraine. As a Malaysian, I would go even further by suggesting that the National Mourning Day be made a permanent fixture on our calendar and be commemorated yearly. Having just celebrated our country’s 57th year of independence, it is hoped that the future will shine bright for Malaysia.


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As for the rest of us, these two incidents should teach us that we should value our lives well. Life is short, as ably demonstrated by the tragedies. We may never know when it is our turn to be called to be with our Maker. Whether a believer or an atheist, we will someday pass away as no one (so far proven) is immortal. Neither could those passengers on both MH370 and MH17. They got on both planes thinking that in several hours; they would arrive at their destinations and from there, continue with their scheduled activities, maybe even board another plane to head back the other way once they were done. But it was not meant to be. This doesn’t mean that everyone should suddenly abandon flying all together. Research has shown that flying is still one of the safest forms of transportation and that more people die in road accidents than on planes. Just stating a fact here, that no matter what form of transport we use, there will always be a risk attached to it.

As life is so fragile, cherish it every second. Morbid as it may be, us, humans, nay, living beings, can and will die, and it won’t just be on a plane. It could be anywhere, anytime, when, we won’t know, it depends on when our time is up. So remember this; spend every waking moment meaningfully with your loved ones. Live every day as if that day is the last one you breathe.