Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poland's Tragedy

Ninety-seven people on a Polish government flight were killed in a plane crash in Russia yesterday.  The group was on their way to a memorial service honoring some 22,000 Poles who were killed at Katyn by the Soviets in 1940.  Thirty-seven government officials, including the President and First Lady, are among the dead.

Frequent Quarterbacker Edwin wrote yesterday with the following thought:

As I thought about it, I realized how crazy it was that the President of a country, all of the command of the armed forces, the head of the national bank and clergy, and members of parliament would all be on the same plane - a small plane going to a remote Russian village in foggy conditions.  Clearly, there has to be something wrong with that.  Isn't there?

I'm not sure I'm in a position to answer that question.  Certainly it's not uncommon to have multiple members of a government on a single flight.  We can all imagine that if Air Force One went down, it might kill more than jut the President.  Edwin does have a point, however, that having so much governmental power on a single flight seems foolish.  On the other hand, unlike the United States, Poland's President is the head of state but not the head of the government -- they have a prime minister -- so the loss to them is somewhat different than the death of a U.S. president would be to us.

When I was a young child, my parents sometimes traveled on vacation without us kids.  While they were comfortable leaving us with a sitter, there was one rule.  They never, ever traveled on the same plane.  Even as a kid this freaked me out a little, because it represented my parent's contemplation of the possibility their plane would crash.  As an adult, I realize that it also didn't make a lot of logical sense.  If they were concerned about them both being affected by the same tragedy, leaving us with no parents, then they should not have been driving in the same car without us either.

There are certainly protocols that are publicly known for making sure that the entire U.S. government isn't wiped out all at once.  If you watch the State of the Union Address on television, and you know your presidential succession, you may notice that one member of the President's cabinet is always absent.  The entire line of succession never ever is in the same place at the same time, in case something happens to the whole group, to ensure continuity of the presidency.  I don't know what the Polish equivalent is, but I would bet anything there is a reason that the Prime Minister was not on that plane.

It takes something quite counter-intuitive to produce a rule that says two important people can't be on a plane together.  It takes overcoming the basic denial which enables us to not be afraid all the time to plan for the worst.  Most civilians don't like to do that kind of planning -- that's why people who know they are extremely ill still don't make out wills or become organ donors.  We don't like to admit that we might die, even though we know it's true.  That's why, when it comes to security and continuity protocols, the people at risk are not the ones who make the rules.  They have security and military people do it for them.  The Poles may have a strong opinion about whether they did a decent job, given what has happened.  Not being affected myself by the deaths of these government officials or the upheaval they may cause in Poland, I don't think I'm in a place to judge.


Proud Dad said...

Dear MMCQ,

I understand why it bothered you when your parents flew on separate planes. But, while that doubled the (small) possibility that one of them would die, it took into account that losing two parents would be more than twice as bad as losing one. Doing this when driving is just impractical.

Anyway, I (and you) are happy to say that both your parents are alive and well and are among the constant readers of your blog.

Meet the Quarterback

My Photo
Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
View my complete profile

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Quarterback for Kindle