What began at first to look like a devastating twist of fate turned into an extraordinary date with destiny for the people on that plane. And they all went home alive--recipients of a gift and a second chance. They came away with the grace to go on and build on a miracle. And during the past 12 months they have opened their hearts and minds to what that means, individually and collectively.
- Bill Elkin asks, “why am I here” and begins to give talks at churches. The theme?: Imagine you had one minute to live.
- Dave Sanderson begins speaking to groups large and small across the country about hope, about how we all can be heroes, about how miracles are possible. He shares proceeds with the Red Cross, extending the circle of giving and receiving.
- Gerry McNamara, who used to swim in the Hudson as a boy, writes up his story of the crash and watches it go viral across the Internet. A private guy grapples with suddenly becoming very public. “I’m meant to do this,” he decides. “This is a way I can serve.”
- Beth McHugh, her heart full of gratitude, vows to hug everyone she meets. “Each person is a gift I didn’t expect to have,” she says, “and maybe when they hug me they can feel they are hugging life.” At Newark Airport a few days after the crash she is pulled off the line for extra screening. She explains to the woman security agent patting her down about her vow to hug. “But I understand your need for boundaries,” Beth says, to which the agent replies, “Honey, bring it on!”
- Hilda, the doctor who identified Barry Leonard’s (who is barry?) weakened state at the scene and watched over his care for three days in the hospital, is moved to tears when Barry honors her and all Jersey first responders at a thank-you luncheon. Later, she calls upon the miracle to motivate a patient losing the will to live. “Those passengers thought they were going to die,” she says, “but when that plane landed they made a different choice. Isn’t life sacred?” Her patient turns the corner.
- Brad Wentzell remembers back to his childhood. A time of too many fights, too much trouble. “Bad kid!” they all called him. Now he holds up the moving letter from Tess, the mom with the baby, thanking him for helping to save their lives, and he thinks: “If this is the one good thing I do in life, it is enough.”
Ripples. After the miracle, these ordinary people who lived an extraordinary experience have experienced rising love, faith, wisdom, healing. Some are so full of love and compassion they hardly know what to do with it. They’re building on the miracle, extending it out in caring and goodwill to their families, to their co-workers, to their friends, to their communities, to the world. They are cheered at work, heralded in church, embraced at home. People delight in being around them, being near the miracle.
And now, on the one-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson, we are invited to consider this question: can the ripples reach us too? Can we too be touched by this miracle, or whatever we choose to call it? After all, we weren’t on that plane. We didn’t know these people beyond the news reports, the documentaries and the books. We didn’t reach the brink of death and come away with this gift of “new” life.
And yet, might there be that deeper meaning we sensed from when we heard about the miracle that day, or a year after, that we can take inside our own hearts and souls? Could there be lessons we can gain from the examples of these people riding the waves of their spiritual awakening or renewal?
In a way, we’re all survivors. We’ve all had our “plane crash,” or crashes, though they may not make Headline News. We’ve faced, or perhaps are facing, dark moments, conditions that look bleak, outlooks without light. We’ve been up to our necks in the cold, dark waters of this unpredictable life that brings not only moments of unbridled joy but of startlingly real challenges. We’ve all had moments when we, like those passengers who were asked to brace for impact, had to surrender. To let go.
And we’re still here. We too have been touched by grace, no doubt many times, even every day. We have had compassionate hands reaching for us in the dangerous current or wrapping us in a bear hug of caring and support. We have been granted second chances. We have received unexpected gifts.
Isn’t it possible that the ripples of this miracle now, one year after, can serve as reminders that what we need, what we long for in new chances, new possibilities, is right in front of us? Right here, right now? Perhaps what happened that cold winter’s day on the Hudson, and what the passengers have made of the experience, can sprinkle the seeds that, if we nurture them, can help us grow. To become more of who we’re meant to be. To shine. To let God be God in us.