I circled the wreckage once in pursuit of the figures but only met disheartening barricades of plane, cargo and fire. People shrank through the smoke when I tried to approach them despite seeming desperate to find other passengers and safety. At other times I fancied I could see a sole survivor look straight at me, holding my gaze, before turning and running back into the flames. With my circuit complete I again stood looking at the hill where I had first watched this catastrophe unfold.
I was frustrated with my lack of success and unsettled being near the plane at all. There was a quality in the sounds it made, a bleating of heated metal and aching joints, that paired with its dangerous position on the hill made it impossible for me to believe that it was not malevolent.
I pulled out my phone with the objective of calling for help. No signal, then one flickering bar as I left the valley. Emergency calls only. I dialled three nines and heard it ring, but an automated operator answered before I had a chance to speak:
We understand from your location that you wish to report the plane crash. Don’t worry, we are aware of the problem, and special teams have been dispatched to assist you shortly. Thank you for your concern.
I had to talk to another human being, one close to me, and strode to higher ground in an effort to gain more phone signal. As the air cleared again I heard a familiar whispered cry to my left.