From My Side Of The Mountain

by Lee Cropp

KIDS… One of the more-than-I-expected blessings of growing old is being a grandparent. And I am a typical grandfather. If you don’t know, a typical grandparent is defined as a person who knows that there may be one other kid better looking, smarter, more winsome, a superior world-class athlete, etc. than his (hers), but that individual just hasn’t been found.

As a typical grandparent, I am constantly reviewing the media to see if the competition is gaining on my grandson. (For the record, they aren’t.) It is very encouraging to learn the positive and good things that are happening to kids and the real strides they are taking to improve the common nest. But it isn’t all holidays and sandboxes out there. An example is the death of 7-year-old Jessica Dubroll in a plane crash earlier this month.

Just n case there s a cloistered individual out there who doesn’t know to what I’m referring: Jessica was attempting to become the youngest person to fly across the country, accompanied by her father, Lloyd Dubroll, and flight instructor, Joe Reid. On the second day of the flight, April 11,1996, when taking off in a storm at Cheyenne WY, the plane crashed within minutes of leaving the ground. All three were killed.

Immediately a myriad of comments came forth from across the country–some self- righteous protests from self-serving individuals; others were well reasoned and thought out comments. Unfortunately, most were the former rather than the latter, which should trigger a Congressional investigation or two into the moral and social state of the nation There won’t be–how many votes would that garner?

I’d like to take a look at the incident from my side of the mountain. There are two aspects that need to be considered separately: why did the plane crash? and why was jessica allowed to be there? For a little more insight, the flight needs to be compared with a similar and successful attempt. There is such an example in Huntsville. In the late ’80’s, two Huntsvillians, 11-year-old Jenny Hudgens and her father, Richard, successfully flew in a similar plane from Homestead, FL, to Nome, AK. Jenny essentially did most of the flying

The official reason why the Dubroll plane crashed will not be known until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation. However, this much is known: the plane was well over its legal weight for take off at Chyenne’s altitude, which can be an nvtaton to a quick and sudden disaster. ‘This was compounded by the weather which was poor and deteriorating rapidly. A United Express commuter flight that was scheduled to depart immediately after Jessica was delayed. Therefore it appears that the plane left in weather that almost carned a Gold Card for serious trouble. In theory, the flight was under the command of Jessica’s flight instructor, which begs the question, why did an experienced aviator, in his own plane, takeoff facing two equally perilous conditions. The definitive answer will probably never be known Perhaps it had something to 00 with meeting schedules governed by the meda.

In the case of Jenny Hudgens, there was a different approach to the flight. In a recent interview in a local newspaper, Jenny, her mother, and father emphasized that safety was their paramount concern before, during, and after the flight. The father s presently a Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector. During the flight, weight was scrupulously maintained, and weather ruled. I remember following the flight and thinking that she’d never get there because of the delays.

Any answer to the second question, why was Jessca there, will probably never be fully accepted by everybody, probably not even very many. Jessca’s mother, Lisa Blair Hathway, said t was Jessica’s decision, and as a mother, she had to give Jessica the freedom and choce, for these are two foundation stone on which America stands. The father was a little more ambiguous. At one point he said that Jessica had dragged her mother and himself into the flight. Later he said that he was the culprit. bringing the idea up.

Based on the Hudgens interview, it appears that the idea was Jenny’s, and her parents eventually capitulated, in spite of early doubts. In words used a thousand times a day in Huntsville, by parents and grand parents, “The kid wore me down.”

In the Dubroll tragedy it will probably never be possible to cast stones at the surviving individual, for there is a famous saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first rock.” But these is one clear thought for all parents, grandparents, and any others responsible for children. While granting freedom and selection of choice to children is fundamental to their achieving full maturity, the caregivers must temper the freedom and choice available with adult judgement and wisdom.

There are two other groups that need to be mentioned. The members of the media and the body politics who since the hours after the crash have been profiting either with dollars or potential votes. Yet 15 minutes before were completely unaware of what they now call a dangerous situation. As my paternal grandfather sad,” If it is dangerous now, it was dangerous before and should have been fixed before, not after. Sometimes my fingers itch for a rock, or in this case a boulder.