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Pilots Refuse to Fly after Tragedy


Flight 4U 9525, an Airbus A320 en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, Germany, crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday.  All 150 on board were killed, including 16 German schoolchildren.  The flight was operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, the main airline of Germany.  The crash was France's worst accident in 34 years.


After the tragedy, I read this headline: "Germanwings staff refuse to fly, forcing airline to cancel flights after crash."  I assumed that the staff were afraid for their safety and that of their passengers.  It turns out, their refusals to fly were motivated by something else entirely. 


According to Time magazine, the plane that crashed is one of the safest types of aircraft in operation today, and had been inspected on Monday.  Before Tuesday, Germanwings had never had a major air disaster.  Its parent company has one of the best safety records in the world.  The airplane was 24 years old, approaching the end of an A320's usual lifespan of 25-30 years, but was still within the bounds of international safety regulations.  The issue for Germanwings personnel was not safety.


Rather, a Lufthansa spokeswoman explained that the pilots and crewmembers who refused to fly did so because they were in "deep distress" over the tragedy.  Lufthansa's CEO noted, "One must not forget: Many of our Germanwings crews have known crew members who were on board the crashed plane."  He added: "It is now more important to ensure psychological assistance if needed.  And we will get back to a full flight operation as soon as possible then.  But for me, this is rather secondary now."


People matter.  More than companies or money or careers.  Somehow we know this intrinsically.  Perhaps our innate compassion for each other is a vestige of God's image imparted to us in our creation (Genesis 1:26-27).  When we lose someone we know, we hurt.  The better we knew them, the worse our pain.  Grief is the price we pay for love.


So is service.  Pope Francis is back in the news again, once more exhibiting the servant spirit that has endeared him to millions.  The Vatican has announced that 150 homeless people who frequent the Vatican area will be given a special private tour of its facilities.  They will visit this afternoon—the museums are closing early so they can receive a VIP tour of St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican gardens, and the Sistine Chapel.


Reading in the Psalms recently, I was struck by David's declaration of God's love for us: "How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light" (Psalm 36:7-9).


God loves you so much that he grieves your every hurt and walks with you through every valley of loss. (Tweet this) And one day he will give you a personal VIP tour of his mansions in glory.  In the meantime, he offers you the "fountain of life."  Why do you need its waters now?  With whom will you share them today?


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