Texas Tech College of Education faculty members were aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which made an emergency landing last week in Philadelphia after engine failure and a window breaking. That incident led to an Albuquerque woman’s death.
One professor is now sharing his story for the first time since getting back to Lubbock.
Kamau Siwatu was just four rows away from the broken window and where the woman died on the flight. But he said when he boarded the Southwest flight, he didn’t think of what might happen later on that morning.
“It was just routine, business as usual, checking in,” Siwatu said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
But that changed when Siwatu heard a loud boom on the opposite side of the plane and started to hear people screaming.
“You know something is wrong because you’re not supposed to hear a loud sound and the vibrations. It took me awhile to know this is serious,” he said.
On the flight, he described couples praying together, stranger’s calming each other, and mothers and fathers embracing their children. Siwatu kept to himself and tried to contact his wife.
“One of the first things I did was take out my cell phone knowing that this was indeed my time and I began to notify my wife and let them know the plane was in trouble and I started to say my goodbyes,” he said. “I was just in deep thought. I was thinking about my family, thinking about the what if’s, what would happen.”
He said in those moments he accepted that a plane crash might be his fate.
“That’s when I came at peace with the fact that I might die,” he said.
Eventually the wheels hit the ground safely in Philadelphia. And the feeling on the plane when passengers realized they were safe was nothing short of amazement.
“Wow, we survived this, we survived this,” said Siwatu.
Siwatu said the flight attendants and especially the pilot were excellent during the incident. They went down the aisles asking people if they needed assistance.
But he said the fact that the plane has been inspected two days before the engine failed was concerning.
“When I read that, it bothered me. It really bothered me,” he said.
Hours after surviving flight 1380, Siwatu boarded another flight, this time back to Texas. He said it was an easy decision for him since he and his wife have a anniversary trip coming up that requires flying over water.
“I didn’t want that to be my first flight since the incident,” he said. “Jokingly, I said this can’t happen twice in the same day, right? No way. It can’t happen twice and that’s one of the reasons I got back on the plane. And out of routine, I sat down next to the window.”