"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, and that is
because in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore
part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
-Max Planck, principal founder of quantum physics
In last month’s Wednesday Wisdom, I reviewed a scientific
explanation of apparitions using a well-known story from an Eastern Airlines
crash in December of 1972, as an example. In 2017 I published a fiction book, Beyond
Dark Skies about a boy who dies in an airline crash and goes to heaven
where he attempts to communicate to his family that all is well. However, the
examples that I used of the spiritual phenomenon, were not fiction. Every example came from a family, passenger, or crew
member survivor’s story and in many cases, the same experience happened to
numerous survivors—some at the same time.
In the beginning, Lenny, the young man who is killed in the
accident, is met on site of the burning aircraft by his deceased grandparents.
Numerous passengers and crew members have described in detail meeting deceased
family members who communicate with them about the accident. When they awaken
in the hospital, after surviving the crash, they remember the details of the
communication vividly. This reunification with dead relatives has a positive
effect on survivors—and is the reason why I chose to write the book and
encourage others to remain open to such experiences that defy logical
Due to the number of people who contacted me after the last
article, I decided to write more about survivor experiences that defy logic—but
were immensely helpful to them in their healing.
used to be a skeptic until I learned better.”
-Bernie Seigel, M.D., Author of Love, Medicine and Miracles
During 1990-91, I completed over one hundred structured
interviews of passenger survivors of fatal airline crashes. While 78 were
published in my doctoral dissertation, I interviewed numerous additional survivors
who were unable to participate in the formal study. The instrument used in the
study was developed by the National Institute of Mental Health and designed to
assess psychiatric diagnoses. In my doctoral dissertation, it was used
specifically to determine symptomatology of the five disorders associated with
trauma. The second part of the interview pertained to the survivor’s account of
the accident and their subsequent survival.
My favorite question in the second half of the interview
asked about unusual experiences. “Did
anything unusual happen during the accident?” I never had one survivor ask me
what I meant by the question. Without hesitation, survivors would begin giving
me experiences they could not explain. For this article, I have chosen three of
the main themes. First, numerous passenger and crew member survivors were
assisted by someone during the rescue phase of the crisis, but who subsequently
disappeared. Secondly, there were pictures that came into their visual fields
that gave them comfort and hope. Third, many, many survivors saw rainbows over
crash sites that were interpreted as true signs that a power beyond earth was
sending a message of hope and promises for their future.
In the time since I conducted those original interviews
where survivors shared experiences that they were often too afraid to tell family
and friends about, for fear of being laughed at or misunderstood, countless
credible researchers, and scientists have written stories and conducted
experiments that validated these survivors. In fact, books and accountings of
similar experiences abound on the internet today.
“My experience showed me very clearly, that incredibly powerful
consciousness far beyond what I’m trapped in here in the earthly realm, begins
to emerge as you get rid of the filtering mechanism of the brain."
-Eben Alexander, M.D., Author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey
into the Afterlife
Before I cover examples that come from my own interviews, I
would like to introduce the reader to Dr. Eben Alexander’s bestseller, Proof
of Heaven. Dr. Alexander, an academic neurosurgeon for 25 years before
his Near-Death Experience (NDE) held appointments at Harvard Medical School
with its affiliate hospitals. He is the author of two text books and nearly 200
scientific papers and is a recognized expert on the workings of the human
brain. Dr. Alexander had an NDE, when he lapsed into a
coma for seven days and was not expected to recover. When he awoke, he
remembered vividly his entire experience and became a living testament that
life exists beyond human consciousness. Today, Dr. Alexander is a leading influencer on
helping people accept that there is life outside our five senses.
Support from Angels
Stories of receiving help from angels during a crisis is a
common theme from the original interviews. For example, shortly after I mailed the
consent forms to potential study participants, I received a phone call from a
young man who survived the Aloha Flight 243 accident in April, 1988. The accident occurred
when the top of the fuselage peeled back just past the cockpit and well into
the ceiling of the main cabin. One flight attendant was ejected, never to be
seen again, and largely due to highly skilled cockpit crew, there were very few
physically injured passengers—and those
were minor. This young survivor told me that while he wanted to participate in
my study, the psychiatrist he was seeing, advised him against it. I told him that by all means he should follow
his doctor’s advice.
The survivor asked if I wanted to know why he was seeing a
psychiatrist. I told him that it was normal
for survivors to seek help from professionals after surviving a traumatic event
such this. He politely told me that he did not see his experience as normal and sought professional help to
understand what happened to him.
He told me that before the ceiling above him ripped open,
the seat beside him was vacant. As soon as the fog in the cabin dissipated, to
his surprise, a man was now seated beside him. The man seemed familiar to him
and immediately began comforting him. “You are going to be fine,” he said and
touched the young frightened passenger on the shoulder. To the delight of the frantic passengers,
within a few minutes, they felt the landing gear touching down on the runway.
The young survivor glanced out the window for just a moment to confirm that there
was runway beneath the aircraft. When he looked back, the seat beside him was
vacant. Despite his best efforts, he
could not locate the man who supported him during the most frightening
experience of his life.
While the young survivor sustained no physical injures, he
reported the classic symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress. His parents
encouraged him to seek help from a medical professional, thus he began seeing a
psychiatrist shortly after the accident. Over three years after the accident,
he decided that his Guardian Angel had come to earth at his most vulnerable
time and looked after him until he was safe. This concept gave him a sense of
peace and assurance that no matter what happened, he would never be alone.
In February, 1989 a United Airline DC-10 experienced an
explosive decompression similar to the Aloha flight when a cargo door opened during
flight. Nine passengers were
ejected, never to be found. In her book, The View from 13-F, survivor Shari
Peterson, an experienced aviation/travel employee planned to take a sedative to
help her sleep on the flight from Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand. As she was
about to take the pill, she heard a voice over her shoulder telling her to
strap in for the ride of her life.
She looked around only to see that no one was behind her—she was seated
directly in front of a bulkhead. Shari opted to forget the sleeping pill and
strapped in tightly.
Shortly after takeoff, the floor was ripped from beneath her
feet and she found herself clutching survivors around her, as she and the
others held on during the rapid descent. Once again, the excellent response by the
pilots, saved the lives of those who had not been ejected when the explosive decompression occurred.
Another example, where seemingly unexplainable phenomenon
has proved to be healing, involves visions and sightings of images at critical
times of a trauma. For example, in 1989 when United Airlines, Flight 232 lost an engine,
the highly-skilled flight crew managed to control the aircraft for well over 30
minutes as they prepared to make an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa. Passengers spoke of “unusual” experiences as
they prepared for what many believed were their final moments on earth.
One woman had difficulty remaining calm, despite her best
efforts. With young children at home,
the thought of never seeing them again was more than she could bear. Shortly
after the engine exploded and Captain Haynes made the announcement about preparing
for an emergency landing, she began to break down. Suddenly within her field of vision two large
hands appeared. She saw herself seated in the center of the palms of the two
hands. This picture gave her peace like she could never have imagined.
The frightened woman gained total control of her emotions
for several minutes. Each time her emotions began to get the best of her, the
image of the hands appeared. This sequence of events continued all the way up
to the crash landing. Like many others, she escaped the burning aircraft and
was rescued by first responders as she ran through the corn fields, adjacent to
the site of the crash.
Part two of this article will include more examples of
experiences that while not logical to most people, were healing and helpful to
those who had them.