Author Abigail Padgett has sent me her comment via email and I'm happy to reproduce it here, as per her request:
"One can hardly object to the presence of a candle at a memorial service. Yes, Andreas Lubitz appears to have killed 149 people when he killed himself. He is, if a concept as simplistic as “guilt” even applies here, guilty of murder, of mass murder. Nonetheless, he is dead and those who loved him, particularly his parents, could not with any decency
have been excluded from that ritual observance of grief and loss.
Andreas’s candle is not the issue.
The issue is rather the impenetrable nature of the human mind. There seems to be evidence that Andreas, whose sole intent from the age of 14 was to be a pilot, had a documentable history of psychiatric treatment for clinical depression. (A current journalistic conceit in which all psychiatric or psychological issues are subsumed under the rubric of “depression” does not apply here. Apparently Andreas Lubitz actually had been treated for clinical depression, a condition so vague in the popular mind and so overdiagnosed by doctors who are not psychiatrists that in the U.S. one in ten people will at some point take antidepressant medications.)
But real clinical depression is an experiential nightmare the rest of us cannot imagine, and those so diagnosed are, quite reasonably, prone to suicide. If Andreas' diagnosis was competent, he should never have been allowed to complete his initial pilot training. That he was, speaks to both Lufthansa’s desperate and careless pilot recruiting and to
Andreas’ ability to mask his own desperation.
At the end he was only 26, still immature, and escalating symptoms had driven him to doctor after doctor seeking a reprieve that wasn’t possible. He tore up a physician’s recommendation that he was unfit for work on March 24, and climbed into the cockpit knowing that flight 9525 was almost certainly his last. Perhaps he was angry in the way of a man who kills the woman he cannot have. When the chance arose, Andreas apparently locked the pilot outside the cockpit and destroyed both himself and what he would never have again – control of a plane full of people.
Whether his act was or was not “forgivable” must fall for analysis to the realm of philosophy. But there are cold, hard, un-philosophical facts that must be taken into account when structuring preventative measures for the future.
1. Nobody ever knows the private thoughts of anybody. Andreas’s parents, girlfriend and friends, as well as Patrick Sonderheimer, the captain of flight 9525, could not know what Andreas was thinking/planning unless he told them, which he did not.
2. The only reliable source of information about the thought processes of anybody is to be found in observation of that person’s behavior. IE: a pilot altering a plane’s path into the side of a mountain is thinking of crashing that plane.
3. Thus, at least one competent observer must be (a) present, and (b) able and empowered to override the intent of the one whose behavior is dangerous. Isolation is the playground of skewed thought, which in the absence of external controls may manifest in skewed behavior. No pilot should ever be alone in a cockpit, no surgeon in an operating room, etc. We are primates, wired for interactive social dependence and control; the presence of other people in almost all contexts is essential.
Germany’s grisly history may account for a reactive oversensitivity to the rights of those who are “different,” but Germany is not alone in this. Everywhere, at least in the West, records of psychiatric treatment, juvenile criminal proceedings and other indicators of aberrant thought/behavior are shrouded in legal secrecy. As the family member of someone who has lived with a serious psychiatric disorder for decades, I have written and lectured passionately against the mindless and cruel stigma imposed on those who through no fault of their own must struggle to live with psychiatric problems.
However, even I would urge changes in the protocols that silence necessary warnings. If any of the several physicians Andreas Lubitz saw in those last days before Germanwings Flight 9525 had been free to tell not only Andreas, but Lufthansa, that he was unfit for the responsibilities of a pilot on March 24, 149 people would still be alive. Andreas himself might still be alive. And those 150 candles would never have been lit."