Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 appeared destined for an unremarkable trip to Dallas as it lumbered down the runway Tuesday morning at New York's LaGuardia Airport.
Less than a half-hour later, chaos and terror would sweep through the Boeing 737 with 149 people aboard. A blown engine, a shattered window and a horrific death would send shocked passengers to their phones, desperately trying to text and call loved ones as oxygen masks fell and an uneasy silence enveloped the plane.
The entire flight was over in 40 minutes as the plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia 22 minutes after the engine blew. The toll was one dead, 148 virtually unscathed. But when the ordeal began, some passengers were not fully aware of how serious the incident was.
William Madison, 56, was sitting near back of the plane, thrilled that his dash to the gate allowed him to slip on board before the door was closed. Unable to sleep, he had begun reading when he felt a bump.
"We heard a muffled bang. Then we shook," Madison said the next day, safely home in New York after deciding to skip the Texas trip. The plane began a rapid descent but began to stabilize. When the oxygen masks fell, "the people on either side of me said 'I guess we'd better use these.' So we put them on."
Closer to the front of the plane, the danger was much more apparent.
“The plane rattled and shook and people were screaming, crying,” said passenger Julian Lujan, 22, who was returning to Texas from his first trip to New York. “The pressure in the plane began to drop, and people were panicking.”
Lujan said he saw debris from the engine scraping the plane. Fellow passengers "held hands, prayed together and made what they thought were their last phone calls," he said.
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said one of 24 fan blades that push air into the left engine broke off. It was later found with evidence of metal fatigue, he said.
Authorities were still investigating. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was astonished at the damage, including a smashed window near the engine.
"To my knowledge, this is the first time we have lost a window," Kelly said.
Physics is uncompromising. The air pressure inside a plane at 32,000 feet is much higher than outside. Air rushed out the shattered window. The pressure was so great it thrust passenger Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo banking executive and mother of two, half way out the plane, witnesses said. Riordan was wearing her seat belt and was seated right next to the window, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Passenger Tim McGinty, a ranch real estate worker in a cowboy hat, was sitting nearby. He leaped across the aisle and tried to pull Riordan inside but couldn't do it alone. Andrew Needum, a firefighter from Celina, Texas, joined him. Together they pulled her in.
Enter passenger Peggy Phillips, a retired nurse who rushed to Riordan's aid after hearing a call for CPR. She applied CPR for 20 minutes, but Riordan could not be saved.
“Tim and Andrew pulled Jennifer back into our aircraft as it descended and Peggy gave CPR,” McGinty's wife, Kristin, wrote in a Facebook post. “They are all heroes who put others before themselves today.”
As the drama unfolded in the cabin, more heroism was on display in the cockpit. Tammie Jo Shults, a Navy veteran whose résumé includes recognition as one of the U.S. military's first female fighter pilots, was charged with getting the plane on the ground.
She was calm in her dealings with air traffic control. She warned that her plane was coming in hot.
"Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We've got injured passengers," she said.
Air traffic control asked whether the plane was on fire.
"No, it's not on fire. But part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and that someone went out," she said.