I once sent a civilian colleague to an officer recruiter with a personal recommendation. His attempt to become a direct commission officer was short-lived. His application process for the US Naval Reserves was interrupted when it was discovered he had a history of major depression. The recruiter called and gave a big woof and a bow-wow, and took a bite out of my derriere. Talk about a junkyard dog! How was I to know? The man seemed pretty normal but someone who struggles with notable depression should not be issued a weapon and marched off to war. Those with emotional and mental shipwreck do not belong on our ships, submarines or land-based platforms. This is a decision that is made with rational compassion for the majority. It also stands to reason that a man who interrupted his flight training due to a shipwrecked mind should not be allowed to resume pilot training.
Since 9/11, we have not seen anything like the terror in the Alps. Nobody believed it possible until it actually happened. Cockpit doors were reinforced and, in the US, we had a rule that two must remain in the cockpit at all times. Commercial airline pilots are the good guys. We really do not expect them to crash their own aircraft. But in an abundance of caution, we instituted our back-up plan. As the story continues to emerge, many of us are completely heartsick over this unfathomable tragedy.
Andreas Lubitz was not insane when he looked at the flight manifest and noted that babies were on the flight. He was in his right mind when he locked the pilot out of the cockpit. He was calculating when he put the oxygen mask on his own face to assure that he was conscious of the screams coming from the cabin of the airbus. At least, that is the way I imagine it. He gained control of a sky ship and turned it into a guided missile with human components. The human components are still being transported off the Alps. Do not feed me the story of a man with a broken heart. I do not buy it. Let us call it like it is: Lubitz was a cruel b*****d. Mass murderers are not deserving of soft contemplation. It appears he developed a complex plot and carefully hid his intent. He even chose to destroy the commercial aircraft within a geographic locale that held great sentiment from his youth. Cruel and selfish. I can think of a few colourful adjectives that I learned in the navy but they are not appropriate for civilian ears.
Of course, it should be a relief that the media quickly assured the public that this was not a terror attack. Tell that to the families of those on the flight. The screams of their relatives can be heard on the black box recovered from the flying sarcophagus. A cell phone video shows a scene so chaotic that the passengers cannot be identified. But the words “My god, my god!” are heard in several languages. Descent, screams, implosion/explosion. Please explain to me what part of that is not terrifying? The co-pilot carried out a successful terror attack and it began with the sound of a click inside the cockpit.
Andreas Lubitz’s strongest motivational drive was not suicide. Should that have been his drive, he could have merely leapt from the roof of his apartment. He could have been scraped off the pavement and buried in style. He could have taken a hang glider over the Alps and accomplished the same. The man did not want to commit suicide. He wanted to make people pay the price for his self-loathing and hatred. Mr Lubitz wanted to commit an act of mass murder. He had to include himself as a victim to make it happen. No big deal. He had bragged to his girlfriend that we would all remember his name. And what better way to accomplish mass murder than to use the tools of his trade? Did Lubitz enjoy the final moments of his life? Or did his rage precede him into hell? I believe it was the former. Lubitz? Lubitz who? Never heard of the guy.
But back to the issue of accountability: it seems that much of it will hinge on Lufthansa policies for flight cadets. Any job that involves the safety and well-being of many requires high standards and code of conduct. Are there pilots, doctors and military personnel today who use anti-depressants? Of course. And they continue to function. But should we worry when a major depressive disorder manifests in childhood or early adulthood? Yes. And should we worry when a flight cadet walks away from training and takes a hiatus due to severe depression? I think so. The man was unhinged in 2009. Who signed off on his paperwork so that he could gain re-entry to the programme?
The New York Times reports that Lufthansa knew that Andreas Lubitz had interrupted his flight training due to a severe depressive episode. They have turned forensic evidence over to the German prosecutor’s office. Why was a young adult suffering from a severe depressive episode allowed to continue with his training? Should that have provided a red flag? What are Lufthansa policies and was a policy violated when Mr Lubitz resumed his training?
What bothers me the most is that babies were on the flight manifest for Germanwings flight 4U9525. Did the mothers hold their babies tightly to their chests? Did they tell them that they loved them? I have known individuals who suffered from depression but they still loved their families and their fellow man. They would never consider harming another human being. But mass murder is an act of undiluted hatred. Maybe Mr Lubitz struggled with depression because he battled with hatred? We will never know for sure. But we do know that the remains of babies reside along the Alps.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org