The Plane Crash that Gave Us Hope

One year after the miracle landing of Flight 1549, we investigate the ripple effect of how it changed people's lives for the better.

Brace for impact, the pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, said last January 15. The passengers of Flight 1549 knew what that meant: prepare for their final moment here on earth.

Mark Hood, in seat 2A, described it as the most peaceful silence he had ever experienced. He began his last prayer: “God, let my wife Lisa find happiness without me. Let my daughter Maggie follow her dream of attending NYU without being haunted by this New York memory.”

Beth McHugh looked down at the Hudson River and flashed to her familiar nightmare: being in a car that careened off a bridge into a river and drowning. A nightmare so real and so raw that she would only buy new cars with hand-crank windows, so she’d have a chance to get out. “Daddy, I’ll be seeing you in heaven soon,” she prayed. “And please don’t let me stay in the water too long.”

Barry Leonard remembered his plea to God the day before. As he awaited the results of his wife’s tests for possible breast cancer, he said,“ God, if you’re going to take someone, take me.” Her tests came back negative. “I guess I’m going to get what I asked for,” he said to himself.

Vicki Barnhardt, wife and mother of two young children, reached for her cell phone and got through to her husband’s voice mail. “I love you, I love the kids,” she blurted out. “I love you, I love you.”


They didn’t think they were going to die, they knew it.

They were plunging down below the New York City skyscrapers, hurtling toward the Hudson. Big commercial jets weren’t made to land on water – when it happens, they crack in half. And on this cold winter’s day, that water would be frigid. It all looked bleak, and they had no control. So they surrendered. They let go – and let God, or some force greater than themselves.

And as we all know that plane didn’t crash. It skidded to a safe landing, guided by a savvy pilot sent by central casting, or somewhere. Ferry boats closed in as if on cue, many in close proximity because this just happened to time for shift change. The snow and the winds from that morning had faded, making rescue conditions ideal.

It was the Miracle on the Hudson. Do you remember the pictures of those passengers standing on those water-covered wings? Did it fill you, as it did me, with awe and wonder? Was this some kind of sign? At our country’s time of economic turmoil, struggle, pain, and uncertainty, could this have been a signal that someone or something was looking out for us? That there was reason to hope? That something good really can come from something that looks bad – very, very bad?

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Kevin Quirk
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