The passengers boarding Comair Flight 5191 Sunday morning didn’t know they would die within minutes.
They hadn’t done anything wrong, hadn’t contributed to their demise.
So why did they die?
It’s a rhetorical question unanswerable on this Earth. Death has never shown respect for social status, age, schedules or regions.
But we ask the question nonetheless, maybe to get a clue to our own mortality.
Nearly every aspect of life in the Bluegrass was touched by the crushing loss of life Sunday morning: The horse industry, the University of Kentucky’s academic and sports departments, our links with Japanese manufacturing, local and national volunteerism, retirees, young people, newlyweds, blacks and whites share the same ending to very different stories.
In other words, those who died could have been us.
It’s the randomness of death that often makes it so hard, said the Rev. T.H. Peoples, pastor of Historic Pleasant Green Baptist Church.
Peoples has been with grieving families and church members since Sunday trying to help them make sense of the senseless.
“I explain prayerfully that we live in a world where things happen,” Peoples said yesterday. “All of us are aware that life can deal some bitter blows. How we face life, how we accept the frailties of life, is what is most important.”
Peoples said during gut-punching times we need to seek divine help when the unexplainable occurs.
“We should not look for someone to explain why it happens. It happens.
“It is under the permissive will of God, not God’s declarative will, but permissive will,” he said.
“It behooves us to be good citizens, to be productive and to make peace before the sun goes down every day,” Peoples said, “to live life so we will not have regrets.”
It just seems Lexington has had more than its share of unfair deaths of late.
Charles M. Johnson, 29, died earlier this month when a driver ran into Johnson as he was leaving his sister’s house. All he was doing was visiting his sister.
In May, Stephanie Hufnagel, a Chase Bank employee, was killed when a concrete panel, struck by a pickup truck pulling into a parking space above her, fell from the second floor of the garage and crushed her on a walkway below. She was eight months pregnant and simply going to work.
And now 49 people with other plans died Sunday morning before sunrise.
We could have been any of them.
Peoples said because of that, we should live each day to the fullest.
“Not as an epicurean thought,” he said. Not, ‘Eat, drink and be merry.’ But we should live life each day and be productive because tomorrow, none of us knows.”
Maybe that’s why we ask the question, and why those deaths strike us so hard.
We grieve with the families and feel a genuine connection with those who died. Nothing they did separates them from us.
But in our sadness we realize those on the plane looked a lot like us, and they could be us next time.