Last night, I joined the Brotherhood of the Briar at the home of my friend, Dr. Jerry Root. The brotherhood meets outside on dark Thursday nights around a splendid fire to drink scotch, smoke pipes, and talk poetry — very much in the spirit of Inklings like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I snuck in to celebrate National Poetry Month with them … with taquitos, a story, and some poetry about eagles.
One of the brothers, Justice, read two poems very beautifully: Whitman’s “O Captain, my Captain” and Poe’s “The Raven.” Since we’d had a poem about a bird already, it followed naturally for me to share my story about a world-breaking flight. Jennifer Murray, 66, and Colin Bodhill, 55, recently became the first woman and man to circumnavigate the globe from north to south in a helicopter, but only by facing incredible challenges first.
When they were flying over the Antarctic, they hit a storm or rather, a storm hit them. They were flying blind. The landscape was completely whited-out around them. And they crashed.
Both blacked out on impact from the crushing 4G force of their plummet. When Colin came to, his body was in agony. He had broken his back. He thought, “I’m going to die.” He looked over at his co-pilot, Jennifer, and saw she was in shock, repeating over and over again, “We’ve crashed. We’ve crashed.” The crash exposed them to below-freezing temperatures, and Colin knew Jennifer was in danger of hypothermia. And suddenly, he thought, “I’m still alive,” and, as he has since said, “It became all about saving Jennifer.”
With a broken back, in minus 40F weather and 35 MPH winds, Colin got up, dragged Jennifer out of the helicopter into a sleeping bag, erected an emergency tent, pulled a generator from the crash, and lit a stove. Because of this, both Colin and Jennifer survived to be found 4.5 hours later by a search-and-rescue team. Colin has said that if he had been alone, he would have given up and died because he knew his back was broken and he could feel the internal bleeding. But because of the threat to his co-pilot’s life, he got up, and he did the impossible.
After this, both Jennifer and Colin had to recover from their injuries. They did. Then, they got back in their helicopter and flew around the world together, just has they planned, this time without crashing. They set the world-record and became the first man and woman to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter. (An interesting note: Jennifer had already gone around the world in a helicopter by herself and set the world-record for doing so as a woman in solo flight!).
In honor of these two daring heroes (whom Jerry Root affectionately called “crazy!”), I read a paragraph about eagles found in the 14th century Petersborough chronicle, “The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “The Dalliance of Eagles” by Walt Whitman.
Many other things were said and done (and I shall certainly remember Greg Root and Mark Neal putting splinted wood on the fire as the flames leaped around their forearms!!), and I enjoyed the whole poetic evening very much.
I hope you, too, are enjoying National Poetry Month.
Jane Beal, PhD
p.s. To read Shelby Skrhak’s original write-up of Jennifer and Colin’s record-breaking adventure and see pictures, visit the essay that appeared recently in Success magazine.