Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Someone to Watch Over You

I sat, mesmerized, last Thursday as the saga of Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte, unfolded on the television. A few things struck me as I, and the newscasters, got new information:

1. All 155 people and 5 crew members survived, despite having been subjected to the dreaded “water landing” which you hear a lot about in the pre-flight instructions from the flight attendant yet you think you will never partake in.

2. That the plane was taken down by a Canadian goose. Up here in the New York area, we curse Canadian geese for what they do to our parks and patches of grass every spring and summer (suffice it to say it is not pretty and you never get used to it). Little did we know that just one Canadian goose could take down an Airbus.

3. The skill, calm, and heroism of the pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Is this guy a stud or what? He knows the plane is going to go down, he’s flying over New York City, yet he manages—despite everything—to land the plane safely in the Hudson River. One passenger called it the “softest landing” he had ever experienced. I’m sure he was exaggerating, but seriously, people. If the pilot had gone any further, he would have crashed into the George Washington Bridge or worse, gone down in the ocean. Nobody would have survived either scenario. The fact that he was able to bring a plane with an 111-foot wing span down in a river that at its widest is only a mile across (and less than that where they landed) can only be called a miracle.

The most amazing thing to me about Captain Sullenberger is that he patrolled the aisles of the plane twice to make sure everyone was off. If that guy isn’t a hero, I don’t know who is. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t head straight for the emergency doors once we were down, but if 42 degree water was starting to flood in, I’m thinking that that’s where you’d find me.

I heard a pilot who had gone through a similar situation talking about Captain Sullenberger and how this situation could have ended much differently had he not been so calm, experienced, and adept at flying the plane. This pilot, Denny Finch, said that he is now a motivational speaker and when speaking, asks the audience three questions, to which they can only raise their hand to one: 1) “Do you believe in luck?” 2) “Do you believe in fate?” and 3) “Do you believe in God or a higher power?” I thought that this was extremely interesting and wondered how the passengers aboard the flight might respond. At this point, and after watching the developments—the “miracle on the Hudson” as Governor Paterson has taken to calling it—unfold. I believe in all three and I also believe in the marvelous skills of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

It’s been a tough several months in America and I, for one, was feeling a bit depressed at the billion dollar bailouts, the rising unemployment percentages, the falling Dow Jones. But mostly, I was feeling depressed for my fellow, less fortunate Americans, who are suffering. Watching the passengers get off that plane safely, the Circle Line passengers throwing them life preservers and the police boats circling and getting them to safety, made me feel good once my panic subsided and I realized that we were not experiencing another 9/11. Sully was watching out for his passengers. I hope someone is watching out for the rest of us.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. I agree. Wherever this pilot wants to fly -- I'm ready to go along - and you know how I feel about flying :-)


  2. Terrific post. I think almost everyone when in a scary situation like that believes in God and prays for his intervention.

    I don't mind flying. Once flew with a gal who was absolutely terrified and yet sat with her nose pressed to the window. Couldn't figure that one out.

    Used to like to sit in the window seat but no longer. Now I want to be on the aisle so when we land I can get out right away. Not to leave the plane, just to stand up. Also it's easier to go to the restroom if you're in the aisle seat.