the Barra MacNeils, Stan Rogers, and exit row airplane seats

Cathy and I really enjoyed the show by the Barra MacNeils last night at the Alqonquin Theatre in Huntsville. We’ve seen them perform a dozen or more times, usually during their annual cross-Canada Christmas series, so it was of course a concert full of great Cape Breton Celtic music with not a single Christmas carol.

Barra MacNeils take a bow

If their music doesn’t make you tap your feet, please speak to your doctor.

The Barras sang the Stan Rogers classic, Barrett’s Privateers, and mentioned that it was 40 years ago that this legendary Canadian singer passed away.

Can it be forty years – really? He left us with so many great songs.

Northwest Passage.

The Mary Ellen Carter.

At Last I’m Ready for Christmas

The Barra MacNeils always play this great Stan Rogers tune at Christmas time, about someone panicking as at last they’re ready for Christmas, with only two hours to go.

and of course last night we all sang this one with great gusto….

Barrett’s Privateers

Most Canadians have a visceral reaction when we hear the first line

Oh, the year was 1778

and we all respond

How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!

The Barra MacNeils let the audience sing at least one chorus on our own and can I say the front row did a great job belting it out although I’m not quite sure the rest of the theatre held up their end. Anyway.

sitting in the exit row

I think often of Stan Rogers when I’m sitting in the exit row on any flight.

You know how you get a speech from the flight attendants about how to open the emergency exit? You probably think they have always said that. Well, they haven’t.

forty years ago

Stan Rogers was only 33 when he died in the firey emergency landing of Air Canada 797 in Cincinnati in 1983.

He was coming back from a show in Dallas.
Fire broke out in the rear washroom, the attendants herded everyone to the front of the plane, and the pilots made a heroic emergency landing of the broken plane in Cincinnati.

Smoke filled the cabin. They didn’t open the doors quickly enough. And – unfortunately – not everybody made it out. The five crew and 18 of the 41 passengers got out, but sadly, 23 passengers died in the fire – including Stan Rogers.

Smoke apparently overcame people during the attempt to exit and not everyone could find their way to the door. Some passengers even perished towards the rear of the plane, as if they were heading the wrong way in the confusion.

It’s just infuriatingly stupid. God damn them all. The plane landed, but why couldn’t they get everybody out in time?

the aftermath

Of course after every accident like this, there’s a serious investigation and steps are taken to improve flights for everyone in the future. Here are some of the changes all around us today that are a direct result of the investigation into this accident.

  • smoke detectors in lavatories;
  • strip lighting marking the path to the exit door;
  • aircraft makers must prove they can get everybody off of a full flight in 90 seconds;
  • and passengers seated in overwing exits must be instructed how to help in an emergency.

I like sitting in the emergency exit row.
I like to think I’d be helpful in an emergency.
I listen attentively to the flight attendant’s instructions.

And I think about Stan Rogers.


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