Thursday, January 15, 2009

During jaded days, something can happen that restores your faith

I've spent most of today's afternoon writing up that long overview of The Prisoner television show, and ranting towards the end about what the show says about torture... and then I take a few hours to get dinner, and then I switch the channels about on the T.V. seeing what the news is...

And there's a picture of an airplane floating in the Hudson River.

Usually, plane crashes do not end well. Even in the instances when the pilot's able to do something, there's still injured people, fire and flames, the possibility of even a handful of people if not most of the passengers dying in terribly horrible ways.

I'm not a huge fan of flying. I will if I have to, but still...

What has been so amazing about the Flight 1549 crash is how close it all could gone disastrous once the plane collided with what appears to be geese. They had just lifted off at LaGuardia Airport, in Queens. They were flying northbound, then had to turn southwest, and all the while they've got cityscapes all about, no clear spot to land the damaged aircraft other than the two rivers bordering Manhattan. The pilot had to glide the plane - no power once the engines got knocked out, one catching fire by eyewitness report - and still according to traffic control reports was still able to get enough lift for the plane to get in position to the Hudson River. And then, the splashdown. Even without engine power that plane was moving fast, and gravity pulling hard. Hitting the water with that much mass and that rate of speed, it's still like landing on concrete.

The pilot for all intents nails the landing.

Everyone's up and out inside of 90 seconds, getting onto the wings as the plane precariously floats. The pilot's got enough time to check the whole cabin, walking it twice to make sure everyone's out before he's the last to leave. Pilot's name is Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, ex-Air Force pilot with sh-tloads of experience. He's gonna have babies named after him for the next 20 years, hell they might rename that river in his honor. Sully River. It has a ring to it.

Plane still floated long enough for the nearby ferries to arrive in rescue efforts. Coast Guard, city marine patrols, tugs, everyone on a boat in that river showed up to pick up the survivors within minutes. At worst injurywise is a flight attendant with reportedly a broken leg. Some of the passengers are treated for hypothermia, having gotten wet in the cold January waters. I'll bet nearly everyone is still shaking from the adrenelin rush of knowing they've just walked away from a miracle landing.

I remember being on flights, they do that little spiel before takeoff about where the emergency exits are, what to do with the oxygen masks in case of cabin pressure loss, and most of all about how the seat cushions can be turned into a floatation device. There'd always been a lot of snickering about that with the groups I've traveled with a few times, basically deriding the idea that if the plane were to crash into the ocean that the odds of surviving far enough to use the seat as a floatation device would never happen. Well, I am not ever joking about that again.

There's still not a lot of good things going on in today's world. Wars, with innocent people caught in the crossfire. Economic disasters with families suffering, facing poverty and homelessness in massive numbers. Still a lot of problems that need fixing, need constant attention, need some sunshine and happiness. Today, there's 155 people, and all their families and friends, and a whole city of 8 million people feeling just a little bit better, a little more faithful in the rolls of the dice that God throws from time to time (Sorry Einstein, but God does play dice with the universe. At least a pair of D20).

No comments: