I remember an F-18 pilot who died in a plane crash in England. There wasn't much of that story that stuck with me because, truth be told, the world of Marine aviation and me is not really a shared one. Almost 30 years of doing the Navy thing and the only Marine F-18s I ever saw were in the pattern over the west end of Miramar after it became a Marine Corps Air Station.
I remember that one day when there was a terrible accident in San Diego involving another Marine F-18 pilot who flew his terribly broken airplane to within 400 feet of the ground before he punched out on approach to the west end of Miramar eight years ago. He had many options to avoid a tragedy before the crash but only 2 after he crossed the beach and headed home in a crippled airplane. At that point, he had slammed the door on the rest of us and could ride it in to the ground and miss the innocent people living there or he could save himself at their expense.
To be honest, he always had options. He could have ditched that crippled plane at sea, landed the crippled plane on the runway at Naval Air Station North Island, the F18 Navy Air Rework Facility, or he could have elected to fly it into the empty unoccupied canyon 100 feet away from those houses it ultimately destroyed when it crashed without him after he bailed out and let it to fall where it may. What happened was a tragedy.
There was another Marine F-18 pilot who had a crippled aircraft on approach to an airfield in England just last year. I think this man knew something that most of us barely get a glimpse of in the routine of our daily lives. What happened in San Diego was repeatable and could happen again at any time. Or not. He elected for not.
There are worse things than dying. The echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.