Friday, January 16, 2009

Heroes among us

As a romance writer I get so mired in my novels and my heroes and heroines and their conflicts and obstacles that keep them from saving the world or each other or from their own happily ever afters that I sometimes for get to look at the real world and recognize all the every day heroes doing heroic deeds day in and day out.

I was reminded of that – I suspect many of us were – tonight as I watched the nightly news and saw the photos of the US Airways plane landing in the Hudson River. One hundred and fifty five passengers and crew were aboard that flight.
Everyone made it out alive. Astounding. That didn’t happen by accident. First the pilot – just doing his job – made split second decisions that resulted in the ‘landing’ of the airbus in the middle of the Hudson River instead of crashing. I mean think about it. Yes, he was trained for the event of a crash landing but don’t you have to wonder how many pilots EVER actually encounter such an event? Fortunately for frequent flyers, not many. I understand that the greatest risk in a landing of this type is that the plane would have ‘cart-wheeled’ and tumbled end over end which would have caused it to break apart, possibly explode (the wings were filled with jet fuel) resulting in a totally different outcome and most likely many serious injuries and fatalities. The pilot is a hero.
Then there are the passengers themselves who, after an initial (and totally understandable) reaction of panic, all settled down or allowed themselves to be settled down by a competent flight crew member and several of the passengers themselves and evacuated the sinking plane in an orderly and calm fashion. The crew and those passengers are heroes. There was an infant aboard. Somebody’s baby, someone’s grandchild. As a grandmother, I thank God for the heroes who helped facilitate that child’s rescue.

It didn’t end there. Within 2 – 3 minutes of that plane landing hard in over 50 feet of 32 degree water with the outside air 20 degrees, water taxis carrying commuters home from work and tourists who were enjoying the city sights, arrived at the scene. Crews and passengers on those water taxis – at great risk to their own safety – helped haul survivors away from that sinking plane until and even after the harbor patrol and the NYPD and FDNY arrived on scene – all of whom also risked their lives to save these people. Heroes, again, doing their jobs.

We write about them, we read about them, we see real live heroes doing what they do, like today, and their actions bring us a renewed sense of pride that we live in a world where there are still people who do the right thing.

I'm thinking that if we put our collective heads together we could come up with other stories of heroism - either nationally or locally. Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear it. Have you, personally ever had the opportunity to do the right thing? Have you ever been a benefactor of someone who did the right thing and went that extra mile? Have you ever wondered how you would react in a crisis situation? Or do you have anything you'd like to add to this amazing story that could have had such a devstating conclusion?


Michele Hauf said...

I was truly awed watching the story on the news. Tears rolled down my face. Nothing less than amazing that this had a happy ending as opposed to a sad one.

Playground Monitor said...

My husband and I were on a plane taking off from the Athens, Greece airport when we heard a boom and I saw flames coming out of the engine. It dipped to one side, then straightened up. All unnecessary power to the cabin was cut and the flight attendants went into emergency mode. We'd left our two-year-old son back in Germany while we took this last-fling vacation before moving back to the states. All I could think about was him.

The pilot managed to land us safely back at the airport. They never gave us a reason for the engine explosion, but after listening to the reports yesterday, we wonder if it was a bird, since the Athens airport is right by the ocean. Apparently airports by water are more at risk of bird problems. Needless to say, I don't really like to fly, but if I want to go on my vacation to Curacao a week from tomorrow, I can either fly or it's a long, long swim.

We had a local hero here last year. A drunk driver rear-ended a car at an intersection. The drunk was sitting on the curb when the police arrived, and when one of the officers went over to question him, he pulled a gun from the sling his arm was in and shot the policeman in the face. As it turns out, the driver he hit was a retired detective who immediately went back into cop mode and helped subdue the drunk, who just happened to be the guy who used to work in the cubicle next to my husband. Yikes! Sadly, the officer died the next day; the shooter is awaiting trial on capital murder charges.

Heroes in romance novels are fun to read about, but it's these real-life ones who confirm my belief that the majority of people are good.

Capt. Sully rocks!


Cindy Gerard said...

Me too Michele. It's all been quite emotional and for a change, in a good way.

Marilyn - wow. How scary that must have been. And what a story about the drunk driver. Holy cow.

Kylie said...

I can't recall a thing, since nothing exciting ever happens to me, LOL! But I never fail to be moved thinking of the passengers who foiled the terrorists on the plane heading to DC on 9/11. Gives me chills every time.

Debra Dixon said...

I was out and only heard the story reported to me and then later caught it on the news reports. Such an inspiring story.

In one fateful trip to Seattle my plane was diverted back to Minneapolis and we landed with fire trucks on the runway. Our hydralics were gone and they had to tow us to the terminal. Very scary. But at least the hydralics failed when they tried to pull up the wheels so we had landing gear mostly down.

My dad was a uniformed officer when Memphis errupted after MLK was assassinated. He was out on the streets trying to keep the city from tearing itself apart. And in an odd twist of fate, he was one of the first officers on the scene. He was at a fire station around the corner when the call went out.

Christie Ridgway said...

I loved this tidbit about yesterday's hero, Captain Sully. I heard on the news that after everyone was evacuated, he walked the aisles of the sinking plane twice just to make sure that all the passengers had gotten to safety.

On local heroes: Years ago, Surfer Guy stopped by the house we were buying (the house I'm in now) because it was having a termite guy come by that day. The house was supposedly empty, but when he peeked inside, he found the elderly owner (who lived elsewhere) sitting on the only piece of furiture in the house. She was foaming at the mouth and looked, well, dead. (After meeting with the termite guy, she'd had a stroke we found out later.)

He called 911 and then proceeded to use his CPR training. Our house is hard to find and so it was some time before help arrived. She survived!

Cindy Gerard said...

Kylie - I recently watched a made for TV movie about Flight 93. I had avoided watching movies of that type for some time because I felt they were opportunistic. That movie changed my mind because of its wonderful portrayal of the heroes on that flight. Very moving.

Deb - i suspect your father has many stories he could recount. You must be so proud of him.

Christie - You DO have a hero for a hubby. Yeah Surfer guy! That's an amazing story.

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy, thanks for putting this out there. I cried when I read your post and cried when I heard that bit on the news this morning that the pilot walked the aisles twice making sure everyone was off the plane.

Yes, I get the whole training business, but he was waist deep in water at the time. Anything could have happened.

Yep, a lot of heroes on the Hudson last night.

Terry S said...

I can count every time in my life where I have just sat with silent tears running down my face as I have watched miracles and heroism like yesterday's plane landing on the Hudson. Maybe it's a self-defense mechanism, but I can watch the most horrific news and not feel much more than the most superficial of emotions.

This story, though, elicits automatic tears each time I hear about it...from news stories to your post. Stories like these do it to me every time without fail.

I don't have any specific stories of heroism but I truly believe there are quiet acts of heroism every moment of every day that we just don't hear about, or when we do, don't give them the appropriate appreciation. While we haven't yet heard from the pilots, I believe when we do, they will reiterate they were just doing their job and disclaim the title "hero"...which makes them even more deserving. They and all of those people involved in the safe rescue...from ferry boat personnel and passengers to the Coast Guard / NYPD / NYFD all were heroes yesterday.

lois greiman said...

My daughter in law had a friend with emotional problems a few years ago. She and my son had been trying to call her all day and couldn't get a hold of her so they drove over to her apartment but there was no response. So they got a spare key, went inside and found her catatonic after trying to commit suicide. They called 911 and got her an ambulance before it was too late.

Me, I don't think I have a heroic bone in my body. I would have just been pissed if she hadn't answered the phone.

And wading through the freezing water of the Hudson! Please... I mean, maybe I'd surprise myself with new found depths in a crisis, but it would probably be best for all concerned if we never had to find out.

Maureen Child said...

This story was just incredible. Watching those passengers standing on the wing of a sinking plane... it really was a miracle.

And Christie, the fact that the pilot walked that sinking plane TWICE after everyone was off, just to make sure, is what hit me hardest too.

THIS is why I like my pilots to have gray hair! LOL...they've been around long enough to know how to pull off a miracle when they need one!

Cindy Gerard said...

Helen and Lois - I hear you. I keep imagining what I would have done in that situation. Would I have risen to the occasion and helped or would I have fallen apart? A lot of soul testing went on yesterday.

Terry - I agree with you. Every day, in every way, people do make those self-less acts of heroism. Stories like this enrich our hearts because of man's kindness to his fellow man when in today's world, the news stories are often about man's cruelty to man. This story is a much needed reminder of all the good in people.

Debra Webb said...

I, too, was glued to the news watching this! Amazing real life story!

Keri Ford said...

This was truly an amazing story. There were so many things that could have just went slightly different and things could have just completely fell apart.

Cindy Gerard said...

You're so right Keri.
Has this changed the way anyone feels about flying? Do you feel safer or is it more frightening?

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- I hate things like this that remind me how fragile flight can be. I'm a frequent flyer and I while I don't have a phobia, I have moments of intense desire to not be on a plane. Usually when it sheers sideways.

Cindy Gerard said...

Maureen - I Agree 100% on the gray hair. When we went on our white water rafting trip, we were flown from Vegas to a ranch on the rim of the Canyon in a 16 passenger plane. the pilot looked all of 14. it was scary as all get out!

Deb - you are a big flier, aren't you? i take a lot of comfort in knowing that in the past 2 years there have been no fatalities on commercial airlines in the US. Quite a record.

Playground Monitor said...

My husband was telling me that commercial airline statistic last night. I'm still antsy when I fly, but that's why I always carry a book on the plane with me. And now that I have the DH's hand-me-down iPod, I think I'll carry that on board too. Music always calms me.


Cindy Gerard said...

Marilyn, you are always prepared, bless you :o)

Keri Ford said...

Security or check-in usually has my color flying so high that by the time I get on the plane, worrying over it crashing isn't at the top of my list :)

They say you're safer in a plane that driving down the road in your car to the grocery store.

Keri Ford said...

oh, wow. sorry. just woke up from a nap...

They say you're safer in a plane than driving down the road in your car on the way to the grocery store.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Kari, i was wondering how many planes you rode to the grocery store :o)

Kathleen said...

I have nothing but praise for Cpt. Sully. I hope that he and his crew get more than the key to the city of New York. I am pretty sure they should get the key to the world.

I remember coming back home to Canada from Florida many years ago in a storm so bad, I was afraid that one bolt of lightning and we would be toast, but that pilot got us through it and we landed safe and sound in Toronto. After that it never bothered me to fly, because I have every confidence in the pilot and crew of the plane I am flying on
God bless you Cpt. Sully!! God was sure looking over your shoulder today.

Cindy Gerard said...

Kathleen - to that I say Amen!

PJ said...

I've cried over every news report about this crash and living close to Charlotte we've seen a *lot* of reports. Captain Sully is truly a hero!

I have a couple hero stories. The first one affected me personally. Seven years ago my dh lapsed into a coma following cancer surgery and spent 5 weeks, unconscious, in the local Critical Care Unit. I spent every day by his side and every night when I came home there would be a note on my front door from one of the neighbors. "I mowed the lawn." "Picked up your mail for you." "We walked the dogs and fed them." "Dinner is in the fridge. Just needs to be warmed in the microwave." "We cleaned the house today and put clean sheets on your bed." One of my neighbors had a key to the house and for the entire five weeks I came home every night to notes like that from a variety of my wonderful neighbors. They were (and still are) my heroes and I'll never be able to thank them enough.

PJ said...

My second hero story involves one of my younger brothers. We grew up on a lake and one summer day when said brother was 15 he and three friends were bringing our boat into the dock after an afternoon of skiing. One of the neighbors started yelling and pointing across the lake to a group of people in the water who were screaming and waving their hands. My brother and his friends (all 14 and 15 years of age) took off to see what was going on. A group of vacationers had been partying, gotten drunk and fallen overboard. Three were below the surface, in 90 ft. deep water, and it was immediately apparent that they weren't capable of saving themselves. The kids never hesitated. They dropped anchor and dove overboard. They rescued two of the people and two of the kids performed CPR on them (thanks to the Boy Scouts, they knew how) and the other two kept diving for the third person - while more than 20 adults in their boats watched - until FD divers arrived and took over. The third person drowned but those kids are the only reason the other two survived. Definitely heroes in my book.

Candace said...

I have three generations of firefighters in my family (uncles and cousins on my mother's side)so I grew up among heros -- all of whom viewed running into a burning building when everyone else is running out as "just doing my job."

One uncle was also a heavy rescue expert. He was in Mexico City in 1985 and San Franciso in 1989, crawling into collasped buildings with his crew to rescue people who had been trapped by the earthquake -- tons of twisted metal and concrete above them, always with the danger of aftershocks bringing it all down on the rescuers.

During the San Diego wildfires in 2003 (my dh and I were living there at the time) my uncle arrived with his team to fight the fires. Although he was by then a Fire Captain and supposed to be riding a desk, he was on the front lines with his crew, doing his job. The dh and I lived in a relatively safe area (our home was not in immediate danger) and we opened our home to his team to shower, sleep, and eat. They'd come by at all hours, covered in soot, smelling of smoke, wolf down a sandwich, guzzle a gallong of water, grab a shower and a few hours sleep and head back out. This went on, nonstop,for nearly two weeks.

Like Terry S., I can watch the most horrific events on the nightly news with barely a shudder but even thinking of my uncle and those firefighters brings tears to my eyes.

Cindy Gerard said...

PJ what a lovely story about your neighbors helping out during your husband's illness. They are truly heroes And as to your brother and his friends. Absolutely amazing. Incredibly brave.

Cindy Gerard said...

Candace - it takes a brave and selfless person to do what your family does. Gives me shivers just thinking about all the times they have risked their lives for everyone else.