Friday, February 06, 2009


I refused to rush to my computer to write about it. January 15 I watched along with much of America as the U.S. Airways passenger jet floated on the frigid Hudson River with 155 people standing on the wings--looking as if they were walking on water. By the time it was on the news (which was just minutes) ferries were already there. Harbor video shows the first ferry arriving about 3 minutes after the splashdown. "Miracle on the Hudson" it was called. Indeed an artist's rendering that circulated via e-mail showing giant hands and arms supporting the plane at the surface of the river helps one visualize God's probable involvement in protecting every passenger on the plane. A quick Google search will net you video of the crash and rescue. From there you can listen to the calm voice of Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger as he discusses options with controllers. He calmly and softly states at the end of the dialogue "negative, we will be in the Hudson." While he is having this conversation about a quick life or death decision for not only his own life, but all those on the plane and possibly many more unsuspecting civilians going about their daily tasks, he is busy about his job. He also has seconds to communicate with passengers and crew. Oh yeah, and he is also wrestling a massive airplane with no thrust. It doesn't look good. When he last communicates with the controller, it is 20 seconds before the plane hit the water. What then? Since the harbor video shows the life raft inflated and passengers climbing from the plane in exactly one minute from the crash, there could not have been more than a few seconds to compose, remove safety belts and begin the process of getting people off the plane. No time for pats on the back. No time for "What in the world?" Just time to do your job--now. This man not only kept his calm up until this point, but also took time to walk front to back twice to assure that every person was off the plane before he removed himself. Of course, he had no idea how fast the plane would sink. The quick arriving ferries safely shuttled all passengers and crew to the shore and minor injuries were treated. News crews arrived by the dozens and we all saw it over and over. But that is not the point of this post, because you all have already seen and heard most of that.

Probably, you have also heard by now that "Sully" made a call in the following days to the library. See, he had a checked out book in his luggage. He was concerned that he could not return it and found the number for the library and called to explain. The library understood. And a new copy of the book was donated in his honor. I have searched and searched for the name of the book but can not find it. Supposedly, it is a book on professional ethics. Is anybody surprised?

Now, I am going to use the nickname Sully as we are old friends--and I wish we were. I don't really know Sully or his circle of friends, but from what we have all seen I bet I would like most of them. If I were one of his veteran flying buddies you can count on a conversation like this over burgers on the patio; "Tell me, Sully why is it that all of us have logged hundred of hours of safe air time without so much as a 'thank you', yet you crash one airliner in the Hudson and suddenly you are a hero?" I feel sure this is a man that would take good-natured teasing well. In fact, he is probably more comfortable with that banter than with all the hero talk. Still, he is a hero. Not just for training himself to choose reason over emotion. Not just for the amazingly successful outcome of the crash landing. Not just for his humility. But also--and in my mind, mostly--because he has INTEGRITY! For a man who is suddenly a national hero and is pursued by many media outlets for interviews to have the humility and integrity to be concerned about his obligation to return a library book is encouraging anytime and startling in our time. As we watch daily a parade of prominent, popular politicians found to be cheating on taxes and abusing offices for personal gain, this man stands in stark contrast. I will not name them--you can name a dozen easily. Governors, senators, aspiring senators and on and on the list goes. {Side note; This is not a change I can believe in--nor is it a change.} In contrast to all these, Sully demonstrates simple responsibility amidst the media hoopla and regulatory circus that has disrupted his normal life. And what kind of book would he not be returning on time? A book on professional ethics! Just the fact that he is still learning and growing in the autumn years of his career is a testament and encouragement.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor than silver and gold."
Proverbs 22:1

Captain Sully, I know your mother and father are proud. Oh, if only our "leaders" were more like you!


wanna said...

What an awesome post!!! I'm soooo proud!!! Maybe you should look in to "Editorial Writer" for a next carrier.

kwishum said...

Good thoughts. In my files somewhere are handwritten notes from a sermon Dad preached once on Integrity. It's a word I associate with him - and with his eldest son.

I also couldn't help but think as you talked about the teasing from Sully's friends that it's ironic that a pilot could fly his whole career without incident and we'd never know his name. Lots of unsung heros out there doing the job everyday. Even a few postment slogging through the rain when they could call in sick.

Gunga said...

You are really gifted with being able to share your thoughts. You oughta write a book! Love ya!