Monthly Archives: January 2009

Do We Dare to Be… Hopeful?

I am a little bit obsessed with all the updates about last Thursday’s so called “Miracle on the Hudson.” I realize I’m not alone in this. A major news story free of doom and gloom? (Unless, of course, you happen to be a goose.) A gloriously happy ending? Given the current state of the world, the sheer optimism of this story is as shocking as it is uplifting.

Everything about the conclusion of US Air Flight 1549 is incredible. Stranger than fiction.

The plane didn’t break apart. It didn’t flip over in the water. Nothing exploded. Nobody died on impact. The plane didn’t sink. Nobody drowned.

If a plane crash-landed in a movie like this flight actually did land on Thursday (see the video in the newslink above) the audience would bust out laughing at its implausibility.

It just doesn’t happen that way.

We see the harrowing crash scenes in movies like Castaway, or recall the circumstances of other plane crashes in years past, and know that those tragic outcomes, fact or fiction, are the likely result of any “water landing.” We chuckle uncomfortably at the concept of life vests on airplanes, knowing full well that in an accident, they would likely serve only to make the corpses easier to find.

And yet, somehow, thanks to a pilot’s incredible skill and calm demeanor, along with a healthy dose of good luck, they are all alive.

As if that’s not enough, the backdrop for this story is New York City, a place unfortunately distinctive as the setting for too many scenes of horror in recent years. The photos of living, and incredibly, mostly unharmed passengers lined up along the wings of the downed airbus — miserably cold, but very much alive — stand in stark contrast to the terrible images of the dust and death of 2001.

For months, we have been bombarded almost daily with images of stunned traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Grim, symbolic images of our troubled times, framed entirely by the Manhattan skyline. Spitting distance from Flight 1549’s watery landing strip.

The plane was pulled out of the Hudson River last night. The underbelly was described as “shredded,” and investigators are still trying to find a sunken engine. One wing appears charred. But one of the flight attendants described the ditch as little more than a “hard landing.” A big, scary thump with no bounce, and then a slow deceleration.

For once the story is a good one. And it’s hard to miss the symbolism.

I wonder. And I’m afraid to say it out loud. Could this be a turning point?

It goes without saying that it is far too simple. All economic forecasts, decimated advertising budgets, and jobless Circuit City employees indicate otherwise. But the blurry pictures of wing-surfing survivors are etched in my brain as the first joyous news image in many months.

While there is much to be fixed, one can only hope for the best, and rejoice in the positives as they reveal themselves. The realist in me knows better than to think that we’re on the mend just yet, but my optimistic heart really wants to believe.