the story goes like this..
Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings or the sun's heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea where he drowned.
much is still not known about Richard "Sky King" Russell. what has been pieced together since his death was that he was a seemingly depressed 29 year old pierce county resident, a faithful husband, and a white christian male who dreamed of being in the military and once ran a bakery with his wife. eventually he landed a job as an airport ground service worker and after some unknown event or stressor in his life he stole an airplane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, WA (where he was employed) and took it on a dramatic unauthorized flight at sunset on Friday, August 11th 2018. He was chased by 2 F-15 military fighter jets as he calmly explained himself to air traffic controllers while doing complex air maneuvers such as barrel rolls, loops and other acrobatic stunts before deliberately crashing the stolen alaska airlines q400 air turbo prop plane operated by horizon air in to the ground on to a sparesely populated bit of land called "ketron island" not far from the airport he mortally departed from in washington. it is not known if he chose the location with intent or randomly when his 90-minute flight left his fuel levels dangerous low. public census data suggests that the island has around 20 full-time residents. a near by anderson island has around 1,000 full-time residents. no other deaths or injuries have been reported in relation to the crash.
since his death the internet has been ablaze with chatter about the suicide. memes, youtube tribute videos and anonymous users venerating him as a hero have surfaced speaking warmly of him as a modern day icarus story ("the man who flew too close to the sun") and as a symbol for a generation of young men who also feel as he did before he took his own life. one user on reddit states,
Richard "Skyking" Russell is the spirit of every person alive today in the West who has "that feeling," which is more or less all of us. That feeling of hopelessness and lack of purpose, where one has no choice but to serve the machine and be extracted for their worth before they are discarded, with the only thing to show for their toils the benefit of others' bank accounts. No personal achievement. No fulfillment. No feeling of even being alive. But he made it. He got out. In a final act of glorious rebellion he slipped the surly bonds of this Earth we live on and took for himself the greatest freedom Man has ever known. We are all Richard. We all suffer under the crushing weight of 21st Century life that we created. In short, our bodies last longer, but we never live. He lived. If only for a brief, beautiful moment, he truly lived as a free man, living Man's oldest dream, completely, utterly free. He soared through the skies, put out his hand, and touched the face of God. He is, without question, one of the greatest folk heroes ever to live, and his final act of rebellion is to me, unironically, one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Blue skies and tailwinds, Skyking.
since the incident Sky King has come to represent a growing mindset among disillusioned men on the internet. another reddit user states,
It’s a great paradox in life that no one will listen to you until you steal an airplane but if you do they will only guide you into landing so that you can be put in prison forever.
rich, also known as beebo by his family and friends posted an unlisted video on december 8th 2017 that gives an unfiltered glimpse in to his life and values before whatever psychologically signifigant event took place that led him to take his own life.
his death is and was a great tragedy that i (among others) believe signifies an important moment in our american cultural history. something has gone terribly wrong when a kind, compassionate and by all accounts faithful and beloved young family man chooses to take his own life in a spectacular fashion while still apologetically holding himself morally and judicially accountable for his actions. in the audio log of his conversations with air traffic control he asks, "This is probably jail time for life, huh? Well i would hope it would be for a guy like me." his words and actions paint a picture not of a deranged killer (like colombine), nor a religious fundamentalist seeking revenge and glory (like 9/11) but instead (in his own words), "Just a broken guy with a few screws loose..never really knew it till now."
in conclusion, i believe this reddit user sums up why this story has so much appeal to young white "privileged" men who inhabit this new online social media-infused wasteland,
Everything about his expressed life painted a picture of a very relateble average guy. We all get the occasional intrusive thought, and although the vast majority keep them in check, folks tend to wonder "what if." This guy let the thought take its course all the way to its conclusion, and that gives a little piece inside all of us a certain sense of freedom, agency, and power in a world where such things are limited. On top of it all, he wasn't just a suicidal person, he was "ours," a product of the socio-cultural living environment we ourselves participate in and know so well. So, for the average functioning human, there's a piece of us who experiences sadness at the reality of how many of us are "all but there" in his shoes, understanding for many of his experiences, and empathy for others. For those smart enough to be aware, this sort of thing is a signal of our big societal problems. A young, white, male, employed with responsibilities is generally the face of privilege. If that was true, we're now in a time where the once seemingly privileged have begun to break through their own illusion between what they were "promised," what they can actually achieve, and the broken promises of society start to sink in. While Russell is an anti-hero, his actions represent a sort of confirmation of the pain that middle class have been feeling while trying to keep their smile on for the world. It might seem silly with everything going on in the news cycle to not be aware, but culture is not just hard to change, it's slow; it takes a long time for people to turn even their personal tide. The Russell praise isn't praise for his crime or misdeeds, Russell is being praised as a "tide turner" for an important demographic.
rich, Skyking, may you find in death what you never could in life. to anyone who feels the same pain that this young man did in their life: please hang on, just a little bit longer. we are all living in a time and a place that is unimaginable now, you are not alone.