Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


"Beschaert" Destiny Plane Crash Flight 3407


The recent plane crash 3407 gave us all fruit for thought and much sadness and introspection.  What is life and death all about?  What awaited these innocent unsuspecting souls? Why did it happen?  Why did fifty people have to die without rhyme or reason?

These were good people of all ages, many religions and beliefs, with many happy memories and anticipation that they would soon be at home.  Their loved ones were awaiting them eagerly.  They had hurt no one, had no inkling what was to happen to them, and did not know that within moments before landing they would be burned to charcoal and dust by enormous flames shooting out of the womb of the plane.  Each person had a story to tell; each wanted to live; each was important to those who loved them. 

One of the passengers comes to mind who lost her life in this colossal disaster.  She was well known by all of us who live in our Buffalo Jewish community.  Susan Wehle left in a happy frame of mind to enjoy a rather brief vacation in her hectic life as a beloved cantor.  Her beautiful voice and the woman who possessed this talent was loved by us all.  She made both children and adults happy when the sound of her beautiful voice reached our ears. Her Nigunim were both traditional and new.  She was never afraid to try something unusual.  She studied hard, and not too long ago took Hebrew courses at the university to perfect her already good pronunciation of the language in which she performed.    She was only fifty-five years old, and had much of her life to live and enjoy.  She had raised two good sons into adulthood, and had helped many children through their bat and bar mitzwah jitters.  She had a lev tov (good heart) and she gave of herself willingly and wholeheartedly.  The life that Susan and the other passengers of Flight 3407 left behind are lost to all of us.  Why and what for and how will forever remain a mystery.

What occurred the night of the terror and deaths takes us back to two writings.  It reminds us of the well known poem by John Donne, and after which Hemingway named his book  “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, in which one line answers the query for whom the bell tolls:  “It tolls for thee.”  (Hemingway himself chose his own death by suicide.  He shot himself).

In addition the Hebrew prayer that we recite on the High Holiday Yom Kippur states that human beings are beschaert an unknown ultimate destiny: Who shall perish by fire, by water, by sword, by hunger, by thirst, by earthquake, by plague, by strangling, by stoning? Very frightening thoughts, each one. 

It is of course emotionally very unhealthy if we dwell on these unpredictable happenings.  We must live with the realities that occur and that we cannot alter.  We will never forget the disaster of 3407 but we will always with sadness yet joy remember the angelic voice and “Menschlichkeit” (decency) of cantor Susan Wehle and her forty-nine flight companions.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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