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Was the Hudson crash a miracle?

I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving yesterday when I heard the news that there were no fatalities or injuries after an airliner crashed into the Hudson River. All good things come from God–so says the Bible, and so says my Mom, who is prone to utter “Thank you, Lawd!” (in her Southern Belle drawl) for all sorts of things, from a shining sun to a sale on apples. 

So I followed in her steps yesterday, and am still in awe as I read the stories today. It really is a stupendous, mind-boggling, joy-inducing story. Every person who was on that plane is having the best day of their lives day today–now that they’ve tasted death, their lives may never be the same. 


But I’m brought up short by all this talk of “Miracle on the Hudson.” That sort of language was being used from early on yesterday, when it really did look like something impossible-for-man-but-possible-for-God had occurred. A miracle, strictly speaking, is an event that breaks the laws of nature–something that literally bends the rules of the universe. A barren woman becoming pregnant without help from scientific manipulation is a miracle. A brain tumor vanishing just before surgery is a miracle. 
At first, this crash looked like that. But soon, it became clear that the man flying US Airways flight 1549, Capt. C.B. Sullenberger, had displayed enormous poise and professionalism. Ditching a plane is no easy task, and not something for which one can prepare short of simulated practice. Capt. Sullenberger called on all his faculties to ignore the air controller’s advice to divert the plane to Jersey and ditch it in water instead–a procedure that, in an airliner, isn’t as simple as gliding toward the ground. 
That’s human ability at its finest. It blows my mind that humans can do things like that, and it calls for shouts of joy and thanksgiving. 
But it’s not a miracle. 
Update: I was rushing out before, but I should say two words about why this matters: 
1. It matters because it highlights a strange aspect of our media. As the likes of Get Religion and The Revealer are forever pointing out, many fine reporters are tone deaf when it comes to matters of faith. They often don’t know what to make of people who believe in, and live by, things supernatural. Some media outlets are downright allergic to religion. (Again, check Get Religion and The Revealer for a running report.) So it’s odd, isn’t it, to see the media suddenly, liberally, and uncritically using supernatural language? I understand, of course, that a hed writer, if asked, would say s/he doesn’t mean it literally, was quoting a witness, etc. Still…it highlights a fascinating incongruity. 
2. It matters because miracles are an important and controversial aspect of Christian doctrine. They are a special and rare category, limited to the such things as I mentioned above and, oh, the resurrection. Christians get this wrong more than anyone, I suppose–it’s not uncommon to hear a believer calling things “miracles” that aren’t, from sports championships to the sun shining on an outdoor wedding in May. 
And now I’ll give it a rest. 
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posted January 17, 2009 at 8:50 am

Why is this labled a miracle? I know the answer and agree with your point of view about the media’s response to this accident. Why didn’t God move the birds to safety? Hmmm? A highly trained experienced pilot did what his skills, training and experience taught him to do. It’s the same thing when I hear folks thank God because someone survived a complicated surgery. “Thank God he survived” what about that highly trained, dedicated, skilled surgeon and his equally skilled staff?

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Charles Cosimano

posted January 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm

If it had been a miracle the plane would not have crashed in the first place.

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posted January 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Good skill definatly. Sully did what he was trained to do, as did his crew. Bravo on a job well done. Everyone is not clearly looking at the part of the miracle. The miracle is that in fridged waters and fridged temperatures in the air that every one surrvived. The right people were there at the right time, thiat is a miracle. Miracle or not as many will debate, we all must agree that with the hand of God guiding Sully, he was able to do his job. This time the foot prints are not in the sand, but over the Hudson. God kept those people safe. I am happy for all of them, and I pray for their recovery of any physical and emotional pains they may be going through. God will make them well, just as he kept them safe.

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Your Name

posted January 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm

OK, not a “literal,” suspension-of-natural-law miracle, but miraculous in that it is one of the least likely outcomes of an extremely unlikely event: that all the passengers and crew of a commercial jet survived both engines being knocked out simultaneously. If one factor at the time had been different–if it had been darker, or windier, or colder; if someone other than this particular pilot had been flying the plane; if he had not trusted his instincts rather than air traffic control; if the ferries had not been running; if, if, if . . . Even if it’s NOT a technical miracle, it’s close enough for rock and roll!

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posted January 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Ecclesiastes 9:11 ?

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