“Flight #116 Is Down”, Caroline B. Cooney
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The entire novel takes the span of one Saturday afternoon, from 5:05 PM until 12:48 AM the following day, approximately eight hours. Through Cooney, we are able to enter the minds of the major characters in the beginning of the novel – from the rescuers to those boarding the plane that will eventually crash. We learn a great deal about them, such as their personality, behavior and character.
Heidi is a sixteen year old girl, who resides in the Dove House mansion. This is the site of the plane crash, and at the time she is the only one home. She is very independent and courageous, but she doesn’t have many friends. Patrick, a seventeen year old senior who feels as though he is under appreciated, and yearns for a chance to put his rescue skills to work. Laura and Ty are two inexperienced rescue juniors, who arrive to help at the scene. Brothers, Tuck and Daniel, victims of the crash are on their way to New York, where their father will wed again. Tuck is the younger of the two and obedient, while Daniel is more outspoken and rebellious. Darienne is a self centered, egoistical girl who refuses to help at all after she comes out of the plane, unharmed. The last two victims of the crash are Carly, a misunderstood teen who is returning home after following a gang; and Teddie, a little girl headed home back to her parents after spending some time with her grand-parents. All of these disparate personalities and more are thrown together by the tragic crash of a 747 on Heidi’s rural estate.
Quarter to six on Saturday afternoon alone home, Heidi hears a series of loud noises, loud like an exploding planet, or a war, she thought. Struggling as to figure out the origin of the sound, she heads outside. As she identifies it as a plane a minute or so later, she runs back grabbing the telephone calling the police to alert in firefighters and ambulances. As she waits for help she rushes in the plane herself, transporting people single-handedly back to her house for further treatment. Having no medical experience, she doesn’t support the back and necks of those she carries – although a wing of the plane is on fire and she believes victims of the crash only have seconds left. Slightly hurt passengers begin to depart for the house, helping those more seriously injured along the way. Patrick is first on the scene, and is alerted through the radio in his car. After he confirms it’s a 747, every medical center is notified for the emergency. Laura, a rescue junior runs into an ambulance, heads on the way to the scene, leaving her partner behind.
Patrick, as well as some others tells everyone who can walk to head for the house down the hill. Rescue works begin a process called triage, where victims are colored coded based on the severity of their condition – red being most serious and green the least. Many ambulances and visitors arrive at the scene. Back at the house, Heidi and others attends to those in needs, giving out jackets, and making meals for the victims.
In the plane, Tuck gets out and heads the wrong way, and is directed by medical workers into the house, while his brother Daniel is pinned down under a clunk of metal back at the plane. Darienne makes her way out and phones for a taxi, hogging the phone until Heidi personally takes it from her to allow the firefighter to make his call. Darienne refuses to help at all, and later is interviewed by newscasters saying how hard is has been helping everyone out. Ty arrives at the scene and takes the time to tell every visitor parked to move up, and with time he allows the ambulances to leave the heavily trafficked area. Heidi also works with one of the rescue workers to make another route to allow ambulances in and out. She cuts a couple of hedges, and with help, use the barn door to cover the ice to prevent further accidents. Soon a helicopter arrives at the scene to take the most serious victims to the hospital. Heidi is enraged that it can only hold two victims at a time, like a normal ambulance, and must make many round trips to finish the job.
At the airport, those awaiting family and friends from the flight are called aside in a large room where the horrifying news is announced and incomplete lists of survivors as well. Parents in confusion and crying and screaming, making it hard for those who to hears the names being presented. At the site of the crash, Patrick overlooks the scene from the hill, thinking about the golden hour. The golden hour said that the human body could only care for it self, no matter the severity for about one hour. After that, without further help, they would die. He though about all these people – all these hurt people sharing the same precious sixty golden minutes.
When Heidi’s parents are notified of the situation from a hotel in Switzerland they are unable to contact her with the phone being so busy, and they begin to worry. Back at the crash, Heidi allows medical workers to store body bags in the barn and tears flow down her eyes as she sees innocent people being carried there like luggage. She is alarmed to see them put Carly in a bag – Carly had been one of the first people she had rescued, at the time with a red triage sticker on her. She had died now because she was not taken to the hospital on time. Heidi is furious with herself, and claims it as her fault for most of the deaths. She figures that if they hadn’t have so many trees bushes, and even some barbed wire – the rescue would be much easier.
Patrick comforts her by saying she couldn’t be the one to control where the plane landed and she should be proud as she was doing her best to help as much as she could. Back inside, Heidi finds Teddie a small girl in her room under her bed – hiding and she seemed to have been forgotten. Heidi comforts her and takes her out, where she is carried off to the hospital. Back in the plane, Daniel is finally cut free and is taken with a helicopter to another hospital, the medical worker announcing he is the last victim. Ty hears of some of the lesser injured victims and steals a bus from his school to take them to the hospital himself, glad he could be of some use. With about five hours after the crash Heidi, Patrick and her father deiced to rest as there are now hundreds of helpers on the scene. They look at television to see how the news captured the situation. At the hospitals, victims talk to their family and friends, assuring their safety and comforting them.
Later on the phone with her parents, Patrick’s father commends them on their daughter Heidi as she has been one of the most helpful. She talks with him after he tells her how proud of her he is. Her mother talks right after and Heidi assures her she is also fine. At the end of the novel, Heidi decides to spend the night with at Patrick’s as her house is being used as a medical clinic for the night.