On March 17, many students were getting ready for midterms the following week and finalizing their plans for spring break. College President Marvin Krislov was some 200 miles south-east, napping on a Continental Airlines jet headed to Baltimore to attend an event hosted by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, OC ’92.
Then, 25 minutes into the flight, the engine caught fire.
Krislov was rudely awakened from his snooze. “They came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, as some of you might have noticed, there is an engine that’s burning. We’re going to turn it off and we’re going to need to make an emergency landing at Pittsburgh, please get ready,’” he said.
His trip to Baltimore – with College Associate Vice President & Director of Principal Giving Mike Nolan and Executive Director of the Alumni Association Danielle Young – was going to be waylaid.
One flight attendant panicked and began to flip through her emergency manual; another saw her and barked for her colleague to pull it together. She then told Krislov, who was in the front row, to lean forward with his hands around his legs
“I’ve flown hundreds of flights – international, domestic, the whole thing. Small planes, big planes,” said Krislov. “But it was very frightening.”
The plane made it to Pittsburgh, and the flight attendant then instructed Krislov and an older woman with whom he shared the front row to assist the plane’s crew in guarding the grounded plane’s exit to “stop people from stampeding” when the gates were opened.
Krislov, who had seen some large fellows board the plane, was less than thrilled. But the stampede-guard plan was never put into action; instead all of the passengers were lifted from the plane’s back exit by two firefighters.
Krislov and his Oberlin companions then caught a plane to Washington, D.C. and continued by car to Baltimore.
“I missed one meeting, but the truth is, I was so thankful that I was alive. That was the main thing,” said Krislov.
“I would not say I was impressed by the airline’s handling of it,” he added. “They did not overdo it on the compensation or the apologies.”
Once in Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake and others pointed out to the president that they were happy he was alive. “Oh, thank you,” he said he replied.
“The truth is, it’s a frightening experience,” Krislov later told the Review. “It makes you realize how … fragile everything is.”