The night was serene above the clouds, and I marveled at the sensation of flying. Just like angels, I thought, imagining them all around us.
I was with my friend David Wright, who was piloting a Beechcraft Bonanza back to our local airport in Fort Worth from Oklahoma, where we'd taken our pastor and his wife. We'd had a prayer service before we left Texas, and people told us they'd linger at the church for a while to pray some more.
"Bad weather reports," they'd said. Although I was grateful for their prayers, there seemed no cause for alarm. Our flight was less than an hour, and I saw only calm on the horizon.
The lights of Dallas were bright as we landed at Love Field to refuel. "Any news about the weather?"
David asked the tower. The answer came back, "A-OK," but we were airborne only 10 minutes when thunder rumbled and lightning pierced the sky. "Hold tight," David said. "Just 25 miles and we're home." We bounced around like a leaf in the buffeting wind. Our heads were thrown against the canopy of the plane.
The view cleared. "I see the airport ahead!" David shouted. "There's more storm coming, but with any luck I'll make it in before it hits." I jerked back in my seat as he increased the speed. The plane lurched forward.
We zoomed between two giant electrical towers, skimming above the transmission lines. The plane dipped to the left. Wham! It felt like the bottom dropped out. I gripped the arms of my seat. "Jesus," I said in prayer. Wham! We were slammed, almost stopped in midair by something with enormous power.
"What was that?" I cried. All at once, we were flung backward. David pulled on the stick. We were falling! Jesus, I prayed again. This is it. When would the blackout come? I wondered.
But it didn't. I was wide-eyed awake as the plane crashed into the ground, twisting, turning, its wheels digging into the dirt. David and I didn't move. Could we? The engine burst into flames. Lightning flashed all around us. I grabbed the door at my side. I couldn't open it. Frantic, I tugged at the handle. I pushed and shoved. It wouldn't budge.
"I can't open the door!" I shouted. Then I felt a hand near mine. David! The door swept open. "Run!" David shouted.
We leaped from the plane. The constant flashes of lightning were almost as bright as day, and we quickly looked around. Our feet were deep in muddy grass. We'd crashed into a farm pasture, with no roads or houses nearby. Then I spotted a hangar in the distance. "There's the airport!" I shouted. We'd missed it by maybe half a mile.
We ran, afraid of an explosion. The plane engine burned, and the lightning threatened with fierce, jagged force. David and I reached a fence a few yards away. "You okay?" David said. "I'm exhausted, but yeah," I said. We scrambled over the fence, and then turned to look back.
Most amazing of all, somehow, through their clothes, I could see the fire and lightning. Were my eyes playing tricks on me?
"Let's get away from here," David said, as the skies burst and the rain poured down. Please, Lord, let it put out the fire in the engine. We raced toward the safety of the hangar at the airport and both dropped to our knees. After a few moments, we looked at each other. "I'll never know how you opened the door," I said. "We'd never have gotten out otherwise."
"I didn't touch the door," David said.
I was startled by his words. "But I saw your hand."
"It wasn't mine."
I could tell he'd understand what I was about to say. "Do you know what we saw?" I asked, overcome with wonder. David nodded, and I could see the wonder in his eyes too. When we compared the vision we'd witnessed, we came to the same conclusion. We had seen angels—two magnificent angels who had arrived to take charge and see to our safety.
Later that morning our local newspaper asked us to return to the crash site for pictures. We learned that the plane's landing gear had caught a stabilizing cable between the two electrical towers. It had lurched us to a stop, acting like a rubber band. David glanced at me. "That's why we didn't nosedive into the ground," he said. "You are two lucky guys," a reporter told us.
We'd also damaged a power line. The 69,000 volts of electricity running through it could have killed us.
David and I had escaped with our lives, and the wrecked plane was proof enough. But I understood what had happened. I remembered the friends who prayed for our safety, and the moments of clear weather that allowed David to see the airport. I thought of the cable that prevented a crash landing, the plane's door that opened and the rain that doused the fire.
Most of all, I remembered thinking of angels as we flew above the clouds. It wasn't my imagination. God had put them in charge from the beginning.