Irena Metzova doesn’t know why she narrowly missed boarding a passenger jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. But the sparing of her life allowed her to share the Sabbath on national television.
Irena had planned to fly from New York to her native Czech Republic after a summer of working as a volunteer cook for a group of student literature evangelists, including her college-age son. But the airline, KLM, suspended flights amid an industrial strike and rebooked her on a Swissair flight at the last minute. She alerted her sister in the Czech Republic about the change of plans, and the sister agreed to meet her at the Prague airport the next day.
In the morning, the sister woke up to the news that a Swissair DC-10 jet had crashed about two hours after takeoff from New York. It was her sister’s plane.
In tears, she called Irena’s husband. “I lost my sister. You lost your wife,” she said.
But Irena hadn’t taken the flight. When Irena approached the Swissair desk to check in for Flight 111 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the Swissair representative said something that changed everything.
“Mrs. Metzova, you are Czech,” the airline representative said. “We can put you on a direct flight from here to the Czech Republic on Czech Airlines. How would you like that?”
Irena liked the idea of not having to change planes in Geneva, and the airline representative printed her a new boarding pass.
“You have 15 minutes to catch the plane,” the airline representative said. “Run!”
At 10:30 p.m. on September 2, 1998, the Swissair plane crashed off Canada’s coast, killing all 229 people onboard, including a Seventh-day Adventist college student planning to study for a year in France. An in-flight fire was blamed for the tragedy.
As the world mourned, Irena’s sister learned about the change in the itinerary.
Irena, now 68, can’t explain what happened. But several years after the tragedy, she was given the opportunity to speak about her faith on Czech national television. On the television program, Answered Prayers, Irena told about God’s goodness amid repressions in Communist-era Czechoslovakia. She read the fourth commandment about the Sabbath.
Many people heard about the biblical seventh-day Sabbath for the first time, said her son, Kamil Metz, international coordinator for the Giving Light to Our World (GLOW) tracts ministry.
“After the program aired, other Adventists told us that their relatives had called them and said, ‘We never knew that the Sabbath was in the Bible,’ ” he said.