In 1970, when I was 13-years-old, my life was altered forever. An Air Canada plane traveling from Montreal to Los Angeles crashed in Toronto – all 109 people on board died including my mother and two younger sisters. The loss, of course, was devastating. For me and my dad, life as we had known it was over. We were forced to carry on for days, months, and even years, with the impact and effects of such profound loss, that never went away.
Though my father was not on the plane, his life ended that day as well. He fell into a deep depression and I was essentially left to fend for myself. And I had no one to talk to. Back in the 70’s, there was no professional help available to us. We didn’t talk about the plane crash, or about my mother and sisters, because we didn’t know how to – we were overwhelmed, frightened, haunted with terror . . . and alone. Very alone.
Pictures of them were put away, all of their personal items were cleared out of our house, and we were expected to move forward with our lives, as if nothing had happened. We just had to “manage” and do what we thought was best.
People didn’t know how to handle the subject of death and grief, and they thought it was best, to never talk about it. They wanted to protect us – spare us from more pain – prevent the stirring of feelings.
Everybody seemed to have taken a vow of silence when they were around us. The myth back then was that if we don’t talk about it, we can live beyond it.
I, on the other hand, wanted so badly to talk about my mother and sisters, to hear stories about them, to keep their memory alive. But that just wasn’t the way it was back then.
Obviously things have changed tremendously since then. Tragedies are dealt with much more openly, and there’s an outpouring of support, professional help, and love from around the globe, for the families of the victims of any tragedy.
I recount this terrible time – and the four decades since – in my book Repairing Rainbows: A True Story of Family, Tragedy and Choices.
As I describe in my book, I too could have fallen into chronic despair as did my dad, but instead, I chose to live. I believe that when people are faced with any type of loss – the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a marriage, loss of a home – they must deal with the fears, doubts and despair, as they make choices about the future direction of their life. But the biggest decision anyone has to make is whether or not they are choosing LIFE.
I now share my story in the hope that others will be uplifted and inspired; that my journey and untiring search to find a glimmer of positivity in the darkest, most difficult times and knowing that people always have choices, will help others overcome their own struggles and obstacles.
The start of my tragic story is hard to hear, but I believe that the rest is truly inspiring. I dedicated my life to learning, growing and making a difference.
A trained clinical social worker and recently retired summer camp owner and director, I am now a volunteer inspirational speaker and facilitator. I talk about how I got past those darkest of days and became an inspiration to others. I describe my eight ‘happiness-inducing’ strategies for people who want to CHOOSE LIFE over sadness, bitterness or feeling defeated – for people who want to choose to bounce back when life has knocked them down – for people who want to choose happiness and success.
Lynda Fishman Lost her mother Rita 39, and her sisters Carla 11, Wendy, 8 aboard Air Canada in Toronto on July 5, 1970. She is the author of the book, “Repairing Rainbows”