Hold my beer, Gabriel!
Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia a decade ago Tuesday, with [now-retired Captain Chesley ‘Sully’] Sullenberger’s co-pilot [Jeff] Skiles at the controls, three flight attendants and 150 passengers aboard. It was cold, only about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but the skies were clear.
‘What a view of the Hudson today,’ Sullenberger remarked to Skiles, according to National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the crash.
Less than a minute later, birds collided with the plane at 3,000 feet and both engines stopped. Sullenberger took the controls and told air traffic controllers he couldn’t make it back to LaGuardia. His choices were a small airport for private aircraft in New Jersey – possibly too far – or the river.
At 3.31pm, the plane splashed down, somehow stayed in one piece, and began floating fast toward the harbor. Passengers got out on the wings and inflatable rafts as commuter ferries raced to the rescue.
One flight attendant and four passengers were hurt, but everyone else was mostly fine.
Personally, I have experienced many miracles in my life – some of which I didn’t recognize as miracles when they occurred. And, certainly many others have given account of God’s intervention in their own lives.
But it is truly a rare and blessed thing for God to show a thing like this to the entire world.
Some may argue that it was Captain Sullenberger’s great skill and concentration which saved Flight 1549. Guess what: they are correct, too.
Here’s something God does: He uses human agency to work His works. Captain Sully seemed to be a prime conduit.
“He trained at the Air Force Academy, he flew jets for the Air Force,” […] “He’d flown for almost 40 years. He was a glider pilot. He studied water landings. He was a safety instructor.”
“Why doesn’t God do things like this all the time,” an athiest might ask, forgetting a basic premise on which belief in the God of the Bible is based: that this world is not our final destination – that death is not the end of existence for humankind. Thus is the world a stage of existence, one where God intervenes when we ask, and, just as often, when we don’t.
But, in the case of Flight 1549, I bet someone asked.
I, for one, remain awestruck.
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