It all started with the phone call.
“Sally, it’s me,”
“Dad, what’s up?” Usually any call she received via the land line was from her Mum, or telemarketers.
“I wanted to be the first to tell you,” Martin said.
“Tell me what?” She waited, “It’s not bad news is it, is Mum okay?”
“Yes, we’re both fine.” Her father paused for effect, “we’ve won the lottery,” he told her.
“You’re joking, aren’t you?” Sally gasped.
“No, it’s true, first division,” he paused again, “$480,000!”
For a few moments Sally was speechless, still unsure whether this was one of her Dad’s jokes.
“Are you sure Dad? Have you checked the ticket again to be sure?”
“I’ve been in to the Lottery Commission Office Sal, they verified it, and gave me the cheque.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful, congratulations! How’s Mum, has she got over the shock?”
“We’re so excited Sally, we’d like everyone to be a winner, so the first thing we want to do is visit your brother in America. We’re flying first class and we want to take the kids with us. What do you think?”
“America? They’ll love it Dad, this is so exciting, I can’t wait to tell them.”
“Your Mum wants to take them to Disneyland, she knows how much they’ve always wanted to go.”
“Put her on, I need to talk to her” Sally said, and added, “I’m so happy for you both Dad, you deserve to have some good luck for a change.”
A few months later, after the excitement of the windfall had settled down, the holiday to America was imminent.
Sally and Bill’s three children, twelve-year-old Charlotte, ten-year-old Sam, and eight-year-old Jack, still couldn’t believe they were going so far away, on a plane to Disneyland, without their parents for a whole month.
The family lived just a few miles away from the airport in Perth, and one of their favourite things to do at the weekend, was to drive to a local picnic spot and lookout, over the Perth hills. From there they could see planes taking off and landing. They would guess where each plane was flying to and wish they could afford to go on an exciting holiday to an exotic location.
Sally and Bill waved the family through the departure gate and watched as their plane taxied and soared into the sky.
Bill turned to his wife who was shedding a tear, “Come on Sal, cheer up,” he gave her a hug, “let’s make the most of the peace and quiet. We’ll be able to watch what we want on television, go out for a meal or two, and even have sex with the bedroom door open!”
She laughed and agreed it may even be nice without the three kids for a while.
The vacation was a success; the kids kept in daily contact with Skype, posted lots of photos and videos, and Sally and Bill almost felt as if they were experiencing the trip with their children.
Soon it was time for them to return to Australia, Sally’s parents sent her the itinerary of the return trip and she couldn’t wait to collect them.
“It’s too quiet without the kids,” Bill said a few days before they were due home. “Don’t be late picking them up Sal, you know how your Dad hates waiting around.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll leave early and park at the lookout first, and see if I can spot their plane coming in.”
“Yeah! Give them a wave, they might spot you,” Bill joked.
Sally drove up to the lookout, a few miles from home. The plane was due to land in a little less than twenty minutes. She would watch it fly overhead and then drive down to the airport to pick them up. They would have to get through customs first and collect their baggage, so she’d have plenty of time.
She sat in the car listening to the radio, with the car door open to let in the fresh air. She’d checked earlier in the day to make sure the flight was on time and she looked to the sky to see flight QJ358 fly overhead. She heard it before she saw it, the wheels already down ready for landing, and waved as the huge Quantas plane flew over.
She was about to get back in her vehicle when she saw smoke coming from one of the planes’ engines, followed by flames shooting high into the air. Her heart gave a leap as she saw the other engines burst into flames and watched the huge aircraft lose altitude rapidly, losing sight as it plummeted towards the airport only a few miles away.
“Oh, my God!” She screamed,
Sally collapsed onto the driver’s seat and sat in her car, unable to move for about ten minutes, not knowing what she should do. On the radio she heard an announcement that a plane had made a crash landing at Perth Airport and it seemed there could be no survivors.
She left the car and stood looking down from the vantage point where she and her family had spent so many hours watching planes taking off and landing.
Clouds of smoke drifted up into the cloudless blue sky and Sally fell to her knees.
A few minutes passed before she could get her breath back, and could drive to the airport; needing to see if by some miracle her family had survived.
Her mobile phone rang, it would be Bill, how could she tell him their children’s flight had crashed in a ball of flames.
“Hi Mum, it’s Charlotte, Grandad says to let you know we’re on a different flight. We’re still in Sydney, they were having technical difficulties with flight CJ358. These are our new flight details. Have you got a pen?”