[Posted twice before — 6.25.11, 3.10.18] You can make fun of the San Francisco touch-down scene in William Wellman‘s The High and the Mighty (’54), and particularly Dimitri Tiomkin‘s choir-of-angels music, etc. You can call the Christian symbolism tacky, I mean, but I went through something similar once in a private plane as we landed in St. Louis under heavy fog, and it looked and felt exactly like this.
It happened in the mid ’70s. I had hitched a ride across the country (Van Nuys to LaGuardia) in a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza. The pilot was a Russian pediatrician named Vladimir, and he agreed to take me and a guy named Gary in exchange for gas money. We left in the early morning, stopped for gas and lunch in Tucumcari, New Mexico, bunked in a St. Louis airport motel that night, flew out the next morning and arrived at LGA by the early afternoon. Anyway…
The fog was so thick as we approached St. Louis that the air-traffic-controller had to talk us down. I was sitting shotgun and the air was pure soup, and I quickly fell in love with that soothingly paternal, Southern-accented voice, telling us exactly what to do, staying with us the whole way…”level off, down 500, bank right,” etc. When we finally got close to the landing strip the fog began to dissipate and the landing lights looked just like this, I swear. And the feeling was the same.
Talk about the welcoming glow of Christianity. It was almost enough, during that moment and later that night as I thought about it, to make me think about not being a Bhagavad Gita mystic any more and coming back to the Episcopalian Church.