Envying the dead: SkyKing in memoriam

The Man, The Myth & The Meme

10 min readAug 12, 2018


Yesterday a man named Richard Russel hijacked a plane, went for a joyride, and crashed to his death. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a man thousands of people he had never met would mourn.

Many more than he had ever expected to care, I’m sure. Possibly more people than he had ever met. He certainly wouldn’t have suspected that they would dub him “SkyKing”.

I heard about it in the morning, local time. I ended up not doing anything but think about it all day. It took me a couple of hours to realise that I was actually mourning him. Felt like a big black clot in my chest. Tried talked to different people to figure it all out, but nothing really helped.

It made me think about a song, so I edited a quick effigy from the available footage, thinking I’d cash in on the New Thing on Twitter, and get some dopamine. Then I spent the rest of the day periodically re-watching it, over and over again.

Then I listened to the entire album.

Around 3 P.M., I laid down on the floor and just didn’t get up for about an hour.

At midnight, I told someone a story about my grandfather, and started to cry a little bit. But not about my grandad.

What in the world could inspire such misery?

The Man

Some already claim him as a martyr. The entire event feels biblical, so it’s no surprise. Listening to him speak in his last moments, one cannot ignore the mythical significance. Some comparisons are obvious, mostly Icarus. But something is off. It doesn’t quite fit.

Many of the audio clips making the rounds make his statements sound like a monologue. It is not. He is talking to a series of different people. It’s a dialogue, and that is important to understanding it. That’s what it’s all about. Rich’s last words were not crazy soliloquy. He was having a conversation, and it was entirely understandable.