The National Catholic Review

America is put together on on West 56th St. New York City.  But yesterday afternoon, the action was in the Hudson River around 48th St, less than one mile from here. Air temperature was 20 degrees, the coldest day of the year.  Water temperature around 34 degrees. USA Flight 1549 was gaining altitude after taking off from LaGuardia. Then an explosion, said to be heard, by students at Fordham University as the plane flew over.  A flock of birds hits both engines. The captain calls in. His options? Return  the plane to land back at  LaGuardia? Or make it to New Jersey to Teterboro? Or to Newark airport?  But no time. He turns left, flies south over the George Washington Bridge. His only words to the passengers  "Brace for impact."

He glides in, with no power. The plane hits the water at 165 MPH, around 48th Street–fortunately where ferries constantly take passengers from NY City to Weehawken, NJ.  Near where the Circle Line boats and numerous tug boats ply the waters. In minutes these boats and Police and Fire and Coast Guard vessels are near. The passengers begin to emerge from the exits over the wings, and from the front of the aircraft. "Women and children first" an order that was followed and abused. Water quickly floods into the plane. Yet 155 on board are all safe, rescued, with a few injuries and  some hypothermia.

Miracle on the Hudson River? It depends on how you define a miracle. A disaster averted? Surely there was heroic, expert, professional work by Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger and his crew. To land safely, without the plane breaking open, to land with so many rescuers nearby?   Coincidence? Chance? I suspect many of those on board,  so grateful to God and to the captain, do believe in miracles.

Peter Schineller, S.J.

Comments

Anonymous | 1/16/2009 - 2:37pm
The professionalism of the captain and his crew can't be overstated. One report last evening noted that as the plane filled with water, the captain checked for passengers by walking the aisle of the plane--twice--before he left the aircraft as the last person out. Mayor Bloomberg is reported to have said that he will give the captain the key to the city. The captain seems like the kind of person who will insist that his entire crew receive the honor.