When a plane lands, I always look out the window.
10 years ago, I was flying in Denver International Airport (DIA). The weather was warm and beautifully calm.
The plane had just touched down. I randomly glanced out the window and noticed the painted white lines on the runway appear parallel to the plane… and then disappear.
All of a sudden, the plane started veering hard right and rolled down an grass embankment. The jarring forced half of the oxygen mask compartments to open. One ceiling panel broke and I saw the exposed guts of the plane wiring through a gaping hole above someone’s seat. It was clear that those small wheels were not designed for an uneven dirt hill.
Then overhead compartments broke open and small bags fell out. We then made a sharp left turn, back up the same embankment…. bump, bump, bump, bang, bump, bang… All of this happened in less than 10 seconds. People screamed and started to cry. I thought I was going to die.
The plane finally came to a complete stop, in the middle of the DIA runway, perpendicular to traffic.
The pilot said over the intercom “No one move. Stay in your seats. The fire department is on their way.” The damage to the plane is clearly unknown. We’re sitting in a metal box… full of jet fuel. WTF!!
The fire department arrives wearing space-gray full-body suits & masks. They spend a good 5 minutes under the plane. We can’t see or hear them. The sobbing I had heard was replaced with utter silence. You could taste the fear and uncertainty in the stale airplane air.
A bus & mobile staircase drove out to our plane. We got out and walked onto the runway to be driven back to the terminal.
Nine months later, American Airlines sent me a $100 voucher and an apology letter. ☹
Now every flight I take with my family, I gaze out the window during landing, hug my wife and boys, and assure myself I can still see those white lines.
UPDATE: A friend found the airline accident report.