“John, this is Dave, Dave, this is John. John works with me at school, David actually works for Boeing.” Said Ken, as any good host at a BBQ would do when two who have never met are meeting for the first time.
“How about those 737’s…..” I immediately said. Son of a bitch, I need to think slower and put a filter on. For some reason the first thing I decide to say to a guy who is an engineer at Boeing falls along the lines of “hey, about your planes falling apart in midair?”.
His response knocked me on my backside.
“Oh, I don’t work on jets, I work on helicopters, do you know the Sea Knights?” He calmly replied.
“The Ch-46 Sea Knight, yes, believe it or not I have heard of it, are you involved in engineering them?” I said
“No, no, I repair ones that are damaged, or salvage ones that got destroyed.”
I immediately felt my heart leap into my throat. You see if he has seen me the previous day he would have noticed that on my shirt I was wearing a small CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter pin in honor of Jen, who as some of you know piloted the CH-46, and spent the last moments of her life in a CH-46. I told him my friend piloted them and was trying to figure out how to say she died without making him feel badly and creating an awkward salad we would all be mixed in. Ken stepped in and said she died evacuating marines. Not sure what it was about how he said it, but it seemed very matter of fact with no feelings of awkwardness. I guess having been a marine and involved in multiple scenarios like this he knows how to handle it.
Regardless I kept playing over the odds of meeting someone new at a place I had been a hundred times who most likely came in contact physically at some point with the helicopter Jen was flying, whether it was for a repair, or for salvage, he bridged a seemingly impossible gap. I am not a generally sad person, and I didn’t get all down with this new connection. Instead I just sort of laughed and grinned. Admittedly it made me happy. I found that before this I was forgetting what this weekend was really about it. An easy task when you are at a BBQ with the people I was with. But just when I needed a reminder, it walked into the yard in the form of an average guy who happened to work at Boeing, who happened to work on the CH-46 Sea Knights.
And here are some Sea Knights….
I couldn’t even fly my remote controlled helicopter…..kudos to you Jen.