I pause on my walk out to the helipad during my night shift as a flight nurse. Leaning against the hangar door, I take a deep breath of cool night air and find myself gazing at the helicopter as she shines in the spotlights. There she sits, looming silently in the distance: red, white and blue, so larger than life, her rotors now quiet. Now only a lifeless machine, she embraces an urgency all her own when she roars to life at the flick of a switch...first one engine igniting, then the other, as the rotors begin their initial, lazy spin.
The heart of this ship has etched a particular design on my life. The kerosene odor of exhaust fumes, the high-pitched whine of the spinning engines, and the feel of every bump and turn in flight have scratched impressions into my heart...much like the bumps and scrapes on the aircraft's floor and walls.
Alongside the helicopter flies pride. Pride for what she stands for and pride for the people who belong to her. It's that feeling of pride that has compelled me to pull my car off the side of the road to stop and watch the helicopter lift off the pad for her next mission...strobe lights flashing and wind blasting like a hurricane. It's that same pride that quickens my heart when I watch another landing that announces the arrival of some of the finest and most committed people, those of her flight crew.
She has seen such drama, struggle, and triumph. This cramped, noisy, and turbulent machine transports us to places of pain and blood and to the shattered glass of smashed windshields and broken lives. Within the tears and pain of each patient flows the rawness of life, stripping them down to the naked face-off between death and life. There is no room left for anything but the sheer will to live. We carry them in a cocoon, lifted by rotors that spin for them a chance at winning the struggle.
Why we fly.