Given the opportunity, would you want your final words preserved for posterity? Airline pilots and the condemned don’t appear to have much in common at first glance. Education levels, lifestyle, and income probably don’t overlap much between the groups. And yet both usually leave an audio record of their last moments.
I’ve long had a morbid fascination with CVR (cockpit voice recorder) transcripts. Maybe not totally morbid, in that given the option, I prefer reading to listening. Most of the websites (aviation-safety, planecrashinfo, tailstrike, airdisaster), carry disclaimers cautioning the reader that “the transcription of a CVR or ATC tape is not a precise science but is the best possible product from a group investigative effort. The transcript, or parts thereof, if taken out of context can be misleading.” (from aviation-safety.net). Interestingly, CVR made it’s debut (outside the world of aviation geeks) off-Broadway in 1999’s Charlie Victor Romeo, which unfortunately has not been staged since 2008.
I’m not sure if the Texas Department of Criminal Justice needs a disclaimer on its executed offenders site where you can find the final words of the 473 inmates executed in the last twenty-nine years. The Texas Tribune also published yesterday a very interesting interactive on the 234 of those executions presided over by Governor Rick Perry in his ten-year tenure.
If the name Cameron Todd Willingham doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not from Texas. Undoubtedly the late Mr Willingham will be mentioned again several times before next November, as the Governor carves out his stance in the “tough on crime” category. Michael Dukakis (his name always brings a smile) he’s not; the Rickster wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a coyote that threatened his dog, so don’t even ask about Anita.
Back to the last words theme, cabin conversations occasionally go from inane to tragic in a matter of minutes, resignation to fate abounds yet a glimmer of hope can be found in last words like “pull up”. The condemned, on the other hand, know the lights are about to go out and have had the opportunity to plan their statements. Many choose not to make one, and I didn’t read at all of them (I told you I wasn’t totally morbid), but enough to see the range of emotions from contrition to defiance as well as….
Bye, I’m Ready.