Family's lucky escape from AirAsia flight QZ 8501
Her 10-member extended family had been keenly anticipating their holiday to Singapore. The five children were going to try out the new rides at Universal Studios, and it would be the first trip away for the babies — her little boy just seven months old, and her brother's baby, who is 11 months.
But they missed their plane, QZ8501, by just minutes.
Christianawati's husband Ari Putro Cahyono had not checked the emails or received the phone calls from AirAsia informing him the flight would be leaving two hours earlier than the scheduled departure of 7.20am.
Even so, this Indonesian family came close. Ari and his brother-in-law arrived together in the first of two cars at around 5am, just in time to see another pair of latecomers race through the departure process and make it to the boarding lounge.
They could have followed if they had not been waiting for the second car, which was carrying the women and children, along with the matriarch of the clan.
So they resigned themselves to their fate and began trying to negotiate a later flight with the budget carrier's ground staff.
As the family argued the toss in the airport, at 5.35am, the A320 Airbus numbered QZ8501 took off. When, 37 minutes later, at 6.12am local time, the pilot asked permission to divert around a storm, the family were cooling their heels at the airport. Five minutes later, the plane lost communication with the tower and, a minute later, fell off the radar.
The world now knows that grave fears are held for the safety of that flight and the 162 passengers and crew on board.
But it was 9am local time before an airport official approached Christianawati and her big family and said the words she will never forget.
"This must have been the best Christmas gift your family ever received," she recalls him saying. "The flight you were supposed to be on has crashed."
While that has still not been confirmed, the effect of this revelation on Christianawati and her family was immediate.
"We felt completely limp, the whole family," Christianawati told Fairfax Media, "It was like we'd lost our spirit."
"I just remember those people who we saw running to the last call," says her husband, Ari. "I hope they find them. I really hope search and rescue finds them soon."
Then he pauses, and finds hope for the missing in his own good fortune.
"It was a miracle that happened to my family, and I believe God will provide the same miracle to all the families who are waiting for their loved ones," he says firmly.
Only time, and the efforts of search and rescue crews in the coming days, will tell.
- Fairfax Media Australia