Even now on the ground, the memory continues to haunt passengers.

On Friday, Jan. 5, an airplane going from Portland Airport (PDX) to Ontario Airport (ONT) had no choice but to make an emergency landing back on the PDX strip after a panel on the left side of the plane blew out. I just so happened to be on that flight. 

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, carrying 171 passengers and six crew members, took off at 4:52 p.m. and turned back around at 5:27 p.m.. As soon as it blew out, the cabin faced rapid decompression causing air masks to come down. Rapid decompression at such a high altitude can cause serious problems such as oxygen starvation, which can lead to dizziness, headaches and unconsciousness.  

The plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 9, had only been in operation for three months before this incident. All planes with the same model were grounded, causing issues for all other flights with this model of plane. As well several other planes have had the same issue with the bolt.

Next to the part that blew out was a 15-year-old boy’s shirt was ripped off but experienced no major injuries—only a sore rib and some scratches. All of the other passengers walked away unharmed, only the memory remained in their minds. 

The piece of the plane that went missing was actually a plug door. For overflow and maximum capacity flights, some of the larger planes will add another emergency exit. The plug door looks like a normal plane wall on the inside. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) started an investigation but without the missing door, it was hard to continue until Monday, when the door was reportedly found in a Portland teacher’s backyard. Along with the door, two phones were also found. 

NTSB held a press conference on Monday, January 8, to share their findings with the public. Clint Crookshanks, who works at NTSB as an aerospace engineer stated, “We found that both guide tracks on the plug were fractured. We have not yet recovered the four bolts that restrain it from its vertical movement and we have not yet determined if they existed there.” 

It was fortunate that the plane was at a height of 10,000-16,000 feet, as NTSB stated to NBC that at any higher altitude, things would have been much worse. 

It is one thing to read about it and feel for those on the plane, it is a completely different feeling to actually be on the plane. I can say I know that feeling. I was on the plane when all of this happened. 

To start at the beginning, we boarded the plane and all was good. I was a little stressed and sad since I had to leave my home and start a new semester at school.  I knew that it would be a little while since I saw my family again. I had my playlist, snacks and I was planning to take a nap. I was set for the flight. 

I was actually a little happy because the middle seat was empty. I did not have to battle for the arm rest or have someone bumping into my knees. I remember that I took a picture of all of the city lights which I thought looked pretty and worthy of sending to my parents when I landed. 

I took out my pretzels and started snacking when six minutes after I took the picture, there was a loud bang and I felt a large amount of wind and at that moment all of the oxygen masks came down. 

The sounds I remember the most were the door being blown off, the wind and every single child screaming and crying. The kid in front of me screamed “Mama”. That voice still rings in my ears. 

The 15-year old-boy, Jack, was moved away from the door as were the other people in his row. His mom was moved a few rows up and Jack was placed in the empty seat next to me. This part is a little bit of a blur. I was having a panic attack and I was just genuinely scared. 

For a little while, the only thought in my head was that I was going to die, that I would never see my family again and that they would bury me. No one should ever have that thought. 

Jack sat down and I put the mask on his face, I took off my jacket and gave it to him whilst also taking out my notes app to try and talk to him. I typed in “Are you okay, what’s your name?” I asked any questions that could get him distracted. We landed, and he was able to talk. He seemed pumped and full of adrenaline. The aisle seat in my row was a lady named Kelly, she was also talking to Jack through the notes app. 

Emergency personnel were there before we were and assessed injuries quickly. The flight attendants and pilots were scared but kept their composure to do their job. Now even though we all survived and landed safely, that fear will never go away, the screams and the plane noise will not go away and the playbacks in my head will not go away. 

This will be a part of me for a very long time, as I process this and try to make peace with it I understand that it will be a journey and take some time. I am starting to understand that I will break and cry and be scared, but that is okay.