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Keeping Memories Alive Help Forge a Community

Category: , Posted:16 Oct 2010 | 10:55 am

The Phuket Gazette.
As the One-Two-Go brand is absorbed into its parent company, we take a look back to that fateful day in 2007 when 89 people perished.
AS I fly from Bangkok to Phuket more often than I care to remember, the trip often becomes routine at the best of times.
It all seems to blend into an exotic language variation known as 'same sameness'.
Working in both the hotel and property markets on Phuket for nearly a decade has led me to profile the visitors who share these planes with me – it has become a personal expedition of people watching.
After all, foreigners coming to Phuket as tourists who may eventually invest in real estate has long been one of the key drivers of the island's economy.
At random moments, as the landing gear thumps on the tarmac and tourists on board light up with animated excitement, I am awash with an eerie feeling and a lump rises in my throat.
As the jet roars down the runway with flaps down hard, I look out the right-side window, watching for a bare patch of hillside and remember September 16, 2007. On a blustery day with driving sheets of rain corning down, 89 people lost their lives on One-Two-Go Airlines flight 0G269. It's been estimated that more than half of those who died were tourists.
I have this pent up urge to point my finger out the window and tell my seatmate the horrific story, but the moment passes and all too soon I'm fumbling for baht at the airport parking lot toll booth.
On the day of the crash, I was (driving past the airport just minutes before the accident occurred, headed to Phang Nga with clients for a meeting in Natai.
Wind gusts were bouncing my SUV around and I recall trading small talk in the pounding rain about how lucky we were not to be flying that day.
While I traversed the Sarasin Bridge, an emergency vehicle sped by southbound on the other bridge with sirens screaming. Within half an hour calls started coming in from people asking whether I had heard about the crash.
For more than a year after, passengers on planes taxing to or from the terminal could spot the wreckage of the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 that had been moved to near the beachfront. Eventually the Airports of Thailand (AoT) authorities put up netting so while you could see the outline of the plane, oblivious passengers were unaware of the history behind the heap of machinery.
Again and again I had this compulsion to grab the person sitting in the next seat and tell them exactly what happened.
Viewing the scene was like watching one of those horror movies where you turn away at the last moment but can't help but catch the bloody ending out of the comer of your eye.
Whenever I speed past that familiar strip of red clay dirt beside the runway that looks just like any other to the unsuspecting eye, a sadness comes over me that is hard to describe.
You can't help but know deep down that even if the incident didn't directly affect your own family, the lives lost were all someone's husband or wife, child, sweetheart. Lives unlived and dreams burst into flames when the plane caught fire.
It was debated by many local residents at the time in talks over coffee or a beer or two, why the crash came and went to quickly into our collective memory on the island. Perhaps the hangover from the tragedy of the tsunami was still fresh and people had simply had sensory overload from the ongoing series of catastrophes.
Recently in the news it was announced that One-Two-Go's parent airline has announced the consolidation of the brand into the Orient Thai namesake.
For now the IATA coded 'OG' flights that became synonymous with the accident will cease to exist. Even that link has now been erased from the storyline.
In these days of continual sensory overload, in which we live an instant at a time with more media corning at us than any other time in human history – you can't help but feel numb to such disasters.
There's just too much stress's for us to process emotionally.
While tourism over years has marched on, and while embarrassingly no fitting memorial exists today for so many who lost their lives (noted, there is one small memorial at the airport), it's good to reflect on the value of life looking back at both the good and the sad times of life in Phuket with value and respect.

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