Updated: Jan 18
Whenever I casually mention that my dad crash landed an airplane, people’s eyes widen quite a bit.
To tell you the truth, there are a number of dramatic, true stories that have happened in my life. I hadn’t thought much of them until my last job, where the workplace environment involved a regular lunch bunch that would eat and play strategy games together at noon.
It seemed that each week I’d share some tidbit of my life or family history…..and then I’d look down to take my next bite of chicken pesto and look back up again to see eight faces staring at me with looks of shock and awe.
So I’m beginning to write about these stories at long last. 👏 Here goes.
In 1968 my dad was going to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa when he got his pilot’s license. He was heading into a career as a chiropractor but flew planes as a hobby. At the age of 21 he flew two buddies to Minneapolis to pick up a friend and circle back to Iowa.
They were less than a mile from the LeMars Airport runway when the plane ran out of gas and crashed into a trailer park. The plane hit the neutral wire of a power line, glanced off one trailer home, smashed into the utility room of another, crushed a child’s playground set, hit a car, and ultimately came to a stop with the tail structure of the plane resting on a third mobile home.
The plane, valued at $16,000, was a total loss.
Miraculously, however, nobody was hurt in the entire incident, with the exception of a minor knee injury to my dad.
Perhaps just as miraculously though was my dad’s response after the traumatic incident. He knew that if he were to ever fly again, he needed to get back up in the air. He refused to let fear master him and got back in the pilot’s seat and flew again. Safely.
Hopefully none of us will have to encounter a decision precisely like that one. But we ARE all faced with similar decisions quite regularly in our lives, and that is the big takeaway I want you to grasp from this article.
When something goes wrong in your life, how will you respond? Things like…..
A job loss
A group of friends that hurt you
A failed marriage
An embarrassing musical performance
A speech in front of colleagues that went awful
A sports injury that has you scared to run/play again, even though doc okayed it
An attempt at a job promotion that got rejected
Most likely when incidents like those occur, a blaring siren will go off in our hearts that says 🚨“Warning - never do that again. The same thing will surely happen.”🚨 And we decide it’s not worth the risk of further hurt or embarrassment and stay in our safe little world.
But oh, what a loss that would be for our lives. And what boring lives we’d then lead.
As I wrap up, I just want to share a few ways I’ve intentionally tried to put my dad’s brave example into action.
-A group of friends hurt me. I wanted to write them off forever. I did stay away for awhile, but then I began to just show up again. At first in quietness, but with more time, there was more healing and more acceptance and things are quite back to normal. I’m so glad I didn’t stay away for good.
-A situation in my career had me question my capabilities. I was very tempted to call it quits and change course entirely. Instead, I stayed in the industry. I interviewed, received job offers, visited creative agencies, met and talked with media professionals. I flippin’ launched a business. (Can I get an amen?!) And if you think I did all of that with 100% gumption and absolutely no fear and trembling then, well, you’re wrong. 😉
-I was one of four people selected to sing at a notable concert in college. I practiced so much that by the time the performance came, I had lost my voice to an extent. It cracked during parts of three songs. It CRACKED in front of hundreds of people. I was heartsick. I took time off of singing, but did get back on the stage again post college and was so glad I did. It led to one of the most memorable concert performances of my life a year later.
So what choice are you going to make this week or this season to “get back up again”? (Anna Kendrick, Trolls Soundtrack.)
Love ya. And don’t forget to watch my first Instagram Reel on this topic!
P.S. Two quick funny side notes to the plane crash story, now that you know it turned out ok, everyone survived, and my dad, Dr. Tom Ortman, quite literally got back up again:
-One of dad’s friends was a 17 year old who didn’t even tell his parents where he was going. 🤭 Can you imagine what that mother felt and thought when she heard the news?!
-The crash occurred at night. A woman in the trailer park went to wake her husband to tell him there was a plane in their yard. He said, “You’re crazy. Go back to bed.” Little. Did. He. Know. 😆
- To view the July 8, 1968 Argus Leader newspaper article on the crash, click here.
My parents today. ⬆️ Jen and Dr. Tom Ortman
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