March 31, 2015
Any airline crash provokes very strong emotional reactions in all of us. The crash of flight 9525 is no exception particularly because it was seemingly provoked intentionally by a mentally disturbed co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who thus became a suicidal mass murderer killing 149 passengers and crew.
Among the many reactions to such an event is empathy because we imagine the horror of such a violent death.
Another feeling, less altruistic, is fear. We are consciously (or subconsciously) aware that we may also die in such circumstances. The immediate reaction to that fear is a frantic quest to take measures that will prevent such a catastrophe, particularly if our own future is involved.
While the airline industry, government regulators, legislators, public health and law enforcement officials try to find new solutions to make flying even safer, I wonder whether, as individuals, we might be, in the future, in a position to prevent such a catastrophe and simply not be aware of our preventive capabilities.
I am sure the investigation will reveal that there were a number of people who could have, by their actions, help to prevent the disaster.
It is hard to imagine, that not ONE person noticed that there was something just not right with Andreas.
What about his ex-girlfriend? It has been reported by the Huffington Post that she said in an interview with Bild magazine, a German tabloid:
“When I heard about the crash, there was just a tape playing in my head of what he said, ‘One day I will do something that will change the system and everyone will then know my name and remember me.’”
Why did his physician, who gave him a sick leave note for that very day, not inform Mr. Lubitz’s employer? According to The New York Times, Lufthansa was aware of his depression. What about his colleagues and friends? They must have been aware that something was wrong. What about his parents, didn’t they have a clue that their son was in trouble?
Man-made disasters never happen in a vacuum. In retrospect we discover that hundreds if not thousands of people played a role, even if insignificant in their eyes at the time, in the chain of events that ultimately led to the catastrophic outcome.
Why are we so reluctant to intervene in what seems to us at the time to be “none of our business?”
I am sure that there are a number of reasons but let me list a few.
1. We do not want to get involved. Our own lives are time-consuming and complicated enough!
2. We assume that others will react appropriately. The phenomenon is known as the diffusion of responsibility.
3. We underestimate our potential impact. We are not aware of the difference we can make.
We should want to be the disruption in a chain of events leading to a catastrophe. We should be the chain’s weakest link.
We should wake up every morning asking ourselves:
“What disaster will I prevent today?”