AT the time of writing, we are no closer to knowing the fate of Malaysia Airlines fight MH 370 than we were at the start of this whole traumatic episode.
We know the last contact with the airplane was somewhere between Malaysia's east coast and southern Vietnam, some oil spills which may or may not be from the aircraft have been detected and at least two passengers boarded the plane with stolen/fake passports. International search and rescue operations are going on but apart from the few basic facts, we only have rumours, speculation and conjecture.
As this episode drags on, we brace ourselves for the worst possible outcome. The likelihood of good news become slimmer and slimmer. Yet we have not given up hope. At the time of writing, prayers have been held nationwide and will continue to be held. On Twitter, #PrayForMH370 is still tending. We want a miracle to happen.
It is not as if airplane incidents have not occurred before. Malaysian Airlines itself had 2 previous incidents which resulted in fatalities in 1977 and 1995. But this time it is different because of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance. This is a prolonged episode of anxiety, coupled with the fact that we have absolutely no idea what happened to the air craft. By the looks of it, it will be quite some time before we can close the chapter, if we can at all.
This time also, it happened in a nation that is far more connected to one another than before, the nation made smaller by advancements in technology. Social media and instant messaging services have brought us closer than we have ever been before.
There were 38 Malaysians on board the aircraft along with the crew members. The airline is our flagship carrier, bearing the name of our country. The flight departed from our international airport.
That is not to say that we do not care about the non-Malaysians in that flight. We have invested ourselves emotionally into the episode, even though we might not personally know the people on board the plane. But we know another person who knows someone on the plane. Or we saw the last photo taken before the passenger boarded the plane, which has been shared on social media and WhatsApp. Or the Facebook page of the captain of the plane. The people on board MH 370 are not just names in the news, we know them and they are our own people.
So we come together as a nation. Something similar to what happened during the Lahad Datu incident last year or when Datuk Lee Chong Wei faced off against Lin Dan at the Olympics the year before that. But this time, without the jingoistic overtones.
We are still a divided nation. We are divided along racial, religious, socio-economic and political lines. We are still reeling from the aftermath of the most divisive of elections. The dispute over usage of the word ‘Allah’ did not help matters either. Our divisions can clearly be seen in this current episode. We argue with each other about every aspect of it; from the purportedly insensitive reactions, to the spread of unverified information or entertaining rumours and speculations, from the coverage given to the episode by our media to the efficiency and transparency of the search and rescue mission.
Yet despite all of this, at the end of it all, we are united in our fervent hope that MH 370 will be found.
So we are not so far apart that we cannot come together. We are not so apathetic that we have stopped caring for strangers. We are not so divided that we are not willing to put our differences aside when it comes to an episode such as this. This, to me, is something positive that we can take from the disappearance of MH 370.
At the time of writing, day two of this episode will end. Darkness will descend on the region for the second night. Another night of anxious waiting, of sadness and frustration, of prayers by the family members and friends of the 239 people on board MH 370.
It may be little consolation to them, but at least they know that they do not wait, pray and hope alone. We are with them.