Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why We Are Glad to Have Witnessed a Miracle

New York Governor David Paterson called the recent plane crash into the Hudson River a "miracle on the Hudson," because pilot Chelsey B. Sullenberger III got the plane down skillfully enough to minimize injuries, and all 155 people aboard were rescued.

I think that this spectacular event has captured our attention not just because a lot of Americans are uneasy about flying, but also because the fact that this happened so close to the inauguration of our new President makes the story strike us with powerful symbolic force. The amazing outcome of the plane crash gives us hope that, under skilled leadership, plus the coming together of the people, we might similarly experience a dramatic rescue and recovery of our own country.

After the loss of "engine power" produced by the "double strike" of a crisis of confidence in our recent political leadership on the one side, and the loss of confidence in our economy on the other side, we feel our plane starting to go down. Our new leader calmly but clearly utters the chilling words, "brace for impact." We listen for advice: "head down, feet flat on the floor." For "feet flat on the floor," we each assess our financial well-being and bolster it as best as we can. "Head down" reminds us to take stock of who we are, as individuals, and as a nation, and we position ourselves to do our best to protect and preserve what we find most essential in defining who we are.

We hope that our new leader is as skilled as his confidence and vision lead us to believe. With expert judgment and impeccable control, can he bring this plane down gently into the hard and cold waters of the stark realities we face? Will the plane (our country) hold together under such stress? If so, will it continue to hold together well enough to protect us from drowning or freezing to death?

And, perhaps most importantly, will we as a people hold together well enough to help each other out onto the wings and into the rescue boats that will arrive to help us to transition out of crisis and into a renewed vision of what our life together can be?

We might not consciously be thinking of all of this as we revisit images of the airplane in the water and the people standing patiently on the wings, or as we read and re-read the stories of the pilots' amazing skill, the boat captains' quick response, and the peoples' wonderful cooperative spirit. But we are glad to see such a miracle, such testimony to all dimensions of the best that humans can be, as individuals and collectively.

We know that we are going to need more such vision, skill, and cooperation in the challenges that continue to face us all.


  1. What an incredible post. And a great blog - I shall follow with interest!

  2. Thank you! I continue to be haunted (in a positive, hopeful way) by this story and its metaphorical power.