Friday, February 20, 2009

"Amazing grace-filled landing"?

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Please join us!!
We should all be familiar now with the incredible story of the airplane that landed safely on the Hudson River in New York last month. Below are excerpts of a first-person account which a friend emailed me. It’s being called “Miracle on the Hudson”. I am hoping that our bloggers are astute enough to know that while the thought is correct (that something supernatural was at work in the landing of the plane), the theological language is not (I am such a stickler!). Technically speaking, miracles are changes in nature that can be picked up by the senses (e.g., water turning into wine, a blind person gaining sight).

Now, I am not smart enough to come up with the most appropriate title of this story (my leading choices would probably be: “Grace on the Hudson”, “Grace on board”, “Amazing grace-filled landing”, “Angels on the wings”). So, I leave it to our bloggers, the real theological experts of this site: what would be your title for this story?

This is from a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles, an executive recruitingfirm, who was on Flight 1549. Gerry McNamara (New York/Charlotte) was onUS Airways Flight 1549 last week. Here is his account of the event:

…I remember walking on the plane and seeing a fellow with grey hair in the cockpit and thinking "that's a good thing... I like to see grey hair in the cockpit!"

...I had started to point out items of interest to the gentleman next to me when we heard a terrible crash - a sound no one ever wants to hear whileflying - and then the engines wound down to a screeching halt. 10 seconds later, there was a strong smell of jet fuel. I knew we would be landing and thought the pilot would take us down no doubt to Newark Airport . As we began to turn south I noticed the pilot lining up on the river still -I thought - en route for Newark .

Next thing we heard was "Brace for impact!" - a phrase I had heard many years before as an active duty Marine Officer but never before on a commercial air flight. Everyone looked at each other in shock. It all happened so fast we were astonished!

We began to descend rapidly and it started to sink in. This is the last flight. I'm going to die today. This is it. I recited my favorite bible verse, the Lord's Prayer, and asked God to take care of my wife, children, family and friends.

When I raised my head I noticed people texting their friends and family....getting off a last message. My blackberry was turned off and in my trouser time to get at it. Our descent continued and I prayed for courage to control my fear and help if able.

I quickly realized that one of two things was going to happen, neither of them good. We could hit by the nose, flip and break up, leaving few if any survivors, bodies, cold water, fuel. Or we could hit one of the wings and roll and flip with the same result. I tightened my seat belt as tight as I could possibly get it so I would remain intact.

As we came in for the landing, I looked out the windows and remember seeing the buildings in New Jersey , the cliffs in Weehawken , and then the piers. The water was dark green and sure to be freezing cold. The stewardesses were yelling in unison "Brace! Brace! Brace!"

It was a violent hit - the water flew up over my window - but we bobbed up and were all amazed that we remained intact. There was some panic - people jumping over seats and running towards the doors, but we soon got everyone straightened out and calmed down. There were a lot of people that took leadership roles in little ways. Those sitting at the doors over the wing did a fantastic job...they were opened in a New York second! Everyone worked together - teamed up and in groups to figure out how to help eachother.

…We were standing in 6-8 inches of water and it was freezing. There were two women on the wing, one of whom slipped off into the water. Another passenger and I pulled her back on and had her kneel down to keep from falling off again. By that point we were totally soaked and absolutely frozen from the icy wind.…

The ferries were the first to arrive, and although they're not made for rescue, they did an incredible job…We could not stop shaking. Uncontrollable shaking…

I am struck by what was truly a miracle. Had this happened a few hours later, it would have been pitch dark and much harder to land.. Ferries would no longer have been running after rush hour and it would not have been the same uplifting story. Surely there would have been fatalities,hypothermia, an absolute disaster! I witnessed the best of humanity that day. I and everyone on that plane survived and have been given a second chance. It struck me that in our work we continuously seek excellence to solve our client's leadership problems. We talk to clients all the time about the importance of experience and the ability to execute. Experience showed up big time on Flight 1549 as our pilot was a dedicated, trained,experienced professional who executed flawlessly when he had to.…

There is a great deal to be learned including: Why has this happened to me? Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift? For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have 4 lessons I would like to share:
1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.
2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't worry about the things you don't have.
3. Keep in shape. You never know when you'll be called upon to save your own life, or help someone else save theirs.
4. When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

And I'd like to add: Fly with grey haired Captains.


At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jesus Saves on Hudson Flight"

Thanks for sharing this email FG.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

Best title I heard given- "Two Wings and a Prayer"

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Katherine said...

One thing about keeping in shape(#3): When it does come time to save a life, you forget about the fact that you may not be physically strong enough to pull them out of the water, or whatever you're doing. When I'm working on a Code Blue, doing the IV or chest compressions, I find that I have the strength to do it even if it's the fourth Code that night that I'm working on. I get that strength from God. People in Emergency will tell you it's almost a supernatural strength, because under normal circumstances, if you're not fit, you would never be able to hold it together. But God helps us do it so we can help others.

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On being prepared-

Several years ago, I was at a friend's pool with my children. My daughter, then 5, wanted to go down the slide in the deep end. I decided I would catch her. Now, I can swim, but I didn't realize until after my daughter came down the slide that I could NOT swim and hold her at the same time. I panicked, she panicked, we both went under and my brother-in-law had to save us both. I was TOTALLY unprepared and didn't even know it. Since then, I have taken a few more swimming classes that incorporated some life saving techniques. But, honestly, I can't count the number of other times in other ways I didn't even ask myself if I was prepared and just "jumped in" anyway.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

The now-famous "Sully" is 58 years old. Until recently, airline pilots were forced to retire at age 60. The mandatory age was raised to 65 in December of 2007. [Generally it isn't permissible to mandate retirement at a particular age, but the airline industry is an exception.]

The role Sully played in the successful landing of his disabled aircraft has re-ignited the debate about the mandatory retirement age for pilots. Below is an excerpt from one article I found on this topic:

The ramifications of this incident may have a considerable impact on the current mandatory laws requiring pilots to retire at age 65. On December 13, 2007, President George W. Bush signed into the law the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots law. See, FAA's Fair Treament of Experienced Pilots Act, (The Age 65 Law). This law ended the long standing mandatory retirement age of 60 known as the age 60 rule. 14 CFR 121.383(c).

The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots law saved Sullenberger from being forced to retire in less than two years, at the age of 60.

Sullenberger, the founder of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., has a tremendous amount of experience and as a pilot, has surely passed bi-annual regular physical tests. But like all pilots, his age, and not his ability, dictates when he will be forced to retire.

Experts are attributing Sullenberger's ability to make such a landing to his experience as a pilot, and his work in the field of aviation safety.

Populations are aging. In an era where "50 is the new 40," and 58 year old pilots are making miraculous landings on the Hudson River, it is hard to defend a mandatory rule-- a rule that requires airline companies to discharge pilots at any age, whether it is 60 or 65.

Sullenberger performed an amazing feat, and in minutes, he demonstrated that ability, not age, may be the difference between life or death. His demonstration should serve as a clear example of why our laws should reflect this reality.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a story I thought was worth passing along. If the next generation is the one who is going to "fix" things, I think we're in good hands...

At 10:00 AM, Blogger fran said...

On Eagles' Wings

"For to His angels
He's given a command,
To guard you in all of your ways.."

I found it pretty incredible that "Sully" was also a certified glider pilot, which was essentially the type of aircraft he was flying, when both engines failed. What are the odds of that happening?

At 10:40 AM, Blogger bilbannon said...

I don't think Grace should be linked to this at least in a title of a article because human nature then looks at fatal plane crashes as being outside God's overarching Will. As Aquinas pointed out, even that which is from the devil (like the deaths the devil caused to Job's relatives by a wind storm) falls under and only happens if permitted by God's overarching will.
Joyce Myers has some good sermon moments whatever her other shortcomings and she noted how Christ had praised John the Baptist as being the greatest man born of woman til that time and yet Christ did not lift a miraculous finger to free John from prison even though angels were sent in Acts to free Peter from prison. Yet both events were by the grace of God; though one was a severe grace so to speak and one was a consoling grace.


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