Relying on God

Convergence of the week: The words of vice-presidential pick Joseph Lieberman and Gamil Batouti, co-pilot of EgyptAir Flight 990.

By Lawrence Weschler
Published August 16, 2000 10:41PM (EDT)

Much was made of the fact, last week, that, as Maureen Dowd pointed out in her New York Times column the next day, Sen. Joseph Lieberman managed to mention "God 13 times in 90 seconds" in his Nashville debut as Al Gore's vice presidential pick. To wit, according to the official transcript:

Dear friends, I am so full of gratitude at this moment. I ask you to allow me to let the spirit move me, as it does, to remember the words from Chronicles, which are to give thanks to God, to give thanks to God and declare his name and make his acts known to the people; to be glad of spirit; to sing to God and make music to God, and most of all, to give glory and gratitude to God from whom all blessings truly do flow.

Dear Lord, maker of all miracles, I thank you for bringing me to this extraordinary moment in my life.

And Al Gore, I thank you for making this miracle possible for me and breaking this barrier for the rest of America forever. God bless you and thank you ...

... and so forth.

But what was one to make of the disconcerting convergence, a few days later, arising from the release by the National Transportation Safety Board of the transcript of cockpit conversations aboard the tragically ill-fated Egypt Air Flight 990 last October, on which, according to the Times, the plane's co-pilot could likewise be heard uttering the Arabic phrase "Tawakalt Ala Allah" ("I rely on God") 11 times in a minute and a half?

From the voice recorder transcript, translated from the Arabic, of the final two minutes of the taped cockpit conversation of EgyptAir Flight 990 before it crashed on Oct. 31, 1999. The voices on the recording are those of Gamil Batouti, a Co-pilot, and Capt. Ahmed al-Habashi, the pilot:

1:57 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:48 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:39 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:38 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:36 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:35 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:34 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:32 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:31 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:30 Pilot: What's happening? What's happening?
0:29 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
0:28 Co-pilot: I rely on God.
Pilot: What's happening?
0:21 Pilot: What's happening, Gamil? What's happening?
0:12 Pilot: What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engine?
0:10 Pilot: Get away in the engines.
0:08 Pilot: Shut the engines.
0:07 Co-pilot: It's shut.
0:05 Pilot: Pull.
0:04 Pilot: Pull with me.
0:02 Pilot: Pull with me.
0:00 Pilot: Pull with me.

Beats me. Make of it what you will.

Lawrence Weschler

Lawrence Weschler, director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities, is the author among others of "Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative" and, forthcoming next spring, "Domestic Scenes: The Art of Ramiro Gomez." 

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Al Gore Democratic Party Joe Lieberman