Henry Tovar’s life was defined by his beloved wife, Jenny, and his 6-year-old daughter, Cecilia. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he was very excited.
The father always made sure to spend a lot of time with his family. His neighbors envied his family afternoons in the backyard filled with barbecues and projector movie nights.
Some wondered why Henry was so happy, as most knew he was drowning in debt and hadn’t had a promotion in two years.
He was a manager at a software company in town. It was a regional office of a larger company in the neighboring state. He was lucky to get a job there, and it helped him pay his loans on time.
He worked hard day and night to pay off all his debts and save enough money to buy a bigger house for his family. But for that, Henry urgently needed a promotion.
“How I would love to get a surprise promotion and a handsome salary package!” he often joked in the office.
It was already Friday and he hurried from the office with his friends to a local bar. It was his access point to de-stress and forget about the monotonous routine work.
Even there, Henry often discussed his future with his friends. But all his dreams were tied to one thing, a promotion he had been dreaming about.
When he returned to work the following Monday, he got good news.
“Mr. Tovar. I called to inform you that the boss wants to meet with you in a couple of days,” the company secretary, Miss Elena, informed him.
“I’ll send you the plane tickets and hope you have a good trip.”
Henry was too excited because he was hoping for a promotion.
His records were clear and his performance had peaked from previous years. He just knew it and couldn’t stop dreaming.
He rushed home after work and shared the good news with Jenny. Although she was happy, she advised him not to wait too long and to stay ready for a formal meeting.
“Of course, I’d be on cloud nine if you got promoted,” Jenny encouraged her husband, who knew she wasn’t being negative, but just wanted him to be prepared for anything.
Henry was ready to leave Wednesday afternoon. The cab was waiting to take him to the airport, his things were moved, and he was ready to go.
Although this wasn’t the first time he had gone on a business trip, something was making him uncomfortable.
“Goodbye, daddy… and don’t go away for long….. I love you!” were the last words he heard from his daughter Cecilia. Henry kissed Jenny and his little girl goodbye and climbed into the cab.
For some reason, he was worried and wanted to receive an email about his meeting instead of having to visit his boss in person. He arrived at the airport about half an hour later.
Since he had to pick up the necessary documents from his office, it took time. The airport was not large, but of moderate size for domestic air travel.
The single-engine planes there only carried 20 to 30 passengers, nothing more than that. Henry boarded one such flight that day.
The plane took off while he sat by the window, dreaming of his ascent. About half an hour later, the aircraft began to shudder.
Although Henry had experienced turbulence on previous flights, this one felt strange….
“What’s going on?” the passengers asked. Even Henry knew something was wrong. Moments later, the flight attendant emerged from the cockpit in a panic.
“Please stay in your seats…please, everyone, don’t move,” she shouted.
At this point, the people on board were frightened and Henry wanted to know what was wrong. When the flight attendant went to the cockpit, he couldn’t keep calm and followed her.
“My God, I can’t believe this!” the man cried out in horror after seeing the empty pilot’s seat. “Where’s the pilot?”
He walked forward and found the pilot clutching his chest, unconscious on the floor. He checked the man’s pulse and discovered he was still alive.
But the plane was descending out of control. To Henry’s knowledge, none of the passengers knew how to operate an aircraft, because they were all acquaintances.
“I have to hurry…I have to do this…,” the terrified man muttered as he grabbed the pilot’s headset and put it on.
He told the controller about the mishap and, without any knowledge of how to fly a plane, mustered the courage to operate it.
“Yes, yes…that’s right. Just align the plane with the horizon,” the coordinator instructed Henry. “Yes, that’s the navigator, just head towards it and I’ll send you the coordinates…”.
The man did exactly as he was told. He was sweating and his hands were shaking, but he knew that his life and the lives of the 20+ passengers depended on him.
About 15 minutes later, Henry was on his way to the nearest airport with ample runways for an easy landing. As the plane approached the site, he sweated even more. He knew that a single mistake would crash the plane along with all their lives and dreams.
“Stay calm. You can do it…you can do it,” the coordinator was telling Henry.
Moments later, the plane shook again, but this time it had already landed on the intended runway.
The man couldn’t believe what he had just done. He took a deep breath and rushed out of the cockpit to bring medical help for the pilot.
“Hurry, this way,” the flight attendant hurried as Henry and two other men followed with the pilot in their arms.
The man was taken in the ambulance to a hospital. All the passengers on the ill-fated flight thanked Henry and could not stop crying. The man saw a young man wave at the gate and met him shortly thereafter.
“My God, Mr. Tovar!…. I am Jacobo… You saved many lives!” said the grateful flight coordinator. “The reporters will be here soon to interview you.”
But Henry didn’t want to wait. He pictured his wife and daughter, and wanted to run home and hug them. Moments later, he took a cab home. He had forgotten about his business trip and his promotion.
“Honey! I’m glad you’re okay,” Jenny shouted after Henry narrated the entire incident. Soon after, several reporters congregated in front of his house to interview him.
Soon, the father became the talk of the state and became famous for saving the lives of 25 people, including his own life.
“He just wanted to get a promotion, but he became an emergency pilot,” said some of the major newspapers recounting Henry’s brave act.
His boss called him shortly thereafter and revealed that he had been promoted.
“Further details will be mailed…congratulations on your new position as General Manager, Mr. Tovar…. I am very proud of you!” his superior told him.
Henry was thrilled. He laughed, cried and mumbled because he couldn’t believe what he had just heard.
He relaxed on the balcony dreaming of his new role and saw a plane cross far above his area. He smiled, looking at it, and realized that heroes are not born, they are made!