Reflecting on the Crash of Alaska Flight 261 and Living For Today

31 January 2018 by , 1 Comment
Today is January 31, the anniversary of the crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261 that killed everyone on board eighteen years ago. I was still a flight attendant then and was flying that day. As it happened, not long after the crash, our plane flew directly over the site. Our captain even wondered what the oil slick on the water was from.
 
He knew it wasn’t good.
 
There was a short time when my friends and family had no idea whether I’d been on that flight or not. It was sobering for them and for me. In fact, my brother and I weren’t even speaking at the time, though thankfully the crash changed that.
 
I knew several of the flight attendants on board, including Craig Pulanco, who had brought his partner Paul along with him for the layover in Puerto Vallarta. Since I was flying at that very moment, it wasn’t hard to imagine Brent and myself being on that flight, and that it was our lives cut tragically short.
 
The crash is especially on my mind today because it’s a reminder none of us knows how long we have and that we need to think carefully about how we choose to spend that time.
 
It makes me even more grateful that I’ve spent my life trying to make it as a writer, and that earlier this month, Brent and I left Seattle to live and work in different places around the world. It was a bit of a scary decision, but far less terrifying than reaching the end of my life with a heap of regrets.

If I happen to die tomorrow, I’ll go without regretting not having tried to make my dreams happens or not trying to get everything possible out of life. You can’t ask for much more than that. 

One Response to “Reflecting on the Crash of Alaska Flight 261 and Living For Today”

  1. Dean Johnson 19 February 2018 at 6:42 pm #

    This morning I needed to do a Google search to find a local address of a co-worker. When I found the address, the website also listed the names of the surrounding neighbors. When I saw the name Irene Gruhl, I wondered if she was related to Craig (Gruhl) Pulanco. After a little more searching I found out that indeed that was Craig’s mother. That got me thinking about him and after a little more internet searching I found your article. I knew Craig when he lived in Fargo. I worked with him at Radisson Hotel here in Fargo. When he started working at the hotel he was fresh out of high school. Super nice guy and we got along really well. Lots of fun and joking around when we worked together. Back then we never discussed being gay, but I think we both knew about each other. I don’t remember how long we worked together, but it was sad to see him leave Fargo, but it seemed he really had his life together and knew what he wanted to do. I remember hearing about the crash on tv when it happened but didn’t find out for a couple days that Craig and his partner were on the flight. Even though it had been quite a while since I had seen him or had contact with him, I did attend his funeral and so glad that I did go. I had no idea where in town he was buried, but about 8 years ago I was riding my bike through the cemetery near my house and had to stop and tie my shoelace. When I looked up, I saw his gravesite right in front of me. This is going to sound strange, but I often go to that cemetery (either walk or ride my bike) because the cemetery has a lot of wildlife. There’s always white tailed deer and wild turkeys running around – often I see at least a dozen or so. I’m also a photographer so I get a lot of great pics there. Whenever I go there, I always think of him and say a little “hello” to him when I pass by. He is buried just down the way from my friend’s daughter who passed away at the age of 17. If it gives you any comfort, it’s really a beautiful and peaceful place and to see all the wildlife around really is comforting. It’s nice of you to remember Craig (and Paul) and just wanted you to know he’s not forgotten and I also have fond memories of him. Peace.


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