Yesterday, 155 passengers and crew all managed to live, after their skilled and calm pilot, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, managed to set his Airbus A320 into the Hudson River when both engines choked on birds during climb out from LaGuardia Airport.
As good a job as Sullenberger did (he's probably the most celebrated man in the 5 boroughs tonight), he frankly was doing his job. What's impressive is how well everyone else did to pitch in and save his passengers, crew, and Sullenberger himself. Coast Guard vessels were there, lickety split. FDNY, the traditional heroes of New York, were on scene. And, too, there were commuter ferries that rushed to the scene, and participated effectively in rescue. Almost like they had been training to do that all along. *
Oh. Wait. They do train to do that. NYPD also showed up on scene, and rescued more than one person with their divers.
The water was 32 and a half degrees. The ambient air temp was 20 degrees. People waded through water that would crystalize but for that half a degree, and perhaps some brine from the sea. Thank Gawd for that half degree; this would have been pretty messy if there had been an inch of ice on the river.
Who else? Well, there were some pretty impressive design considerations that had to have come into play. Somewhere, there's a team of aeronautical engineers who are toasting each other, and rightly so. The plane floated long enough to get everyone out. That's amazing. Traditional logic for a long time was that these things sunk. The doors came open immediately upon landing. Design? Good crew training? Both? I don't know. But it saved lives to get people off the plane. Small rafts were deployed. Good job, there.
Those flight attendants are more than just waiters to serve you drinks and show you how to use an O2 mask. They used to be called "stewards," meaning, "one who attends to the needs of another." If they opened the doors, deployed rafts, and helped evacuate the plane, then they did exactly that, and apparently did it pretty well.
While everyone raises a glass to the pilot, remember to toast the other heroes and she-roes who went to work on the Hudson on January 15th, 2009. Damned good work, that.
*Check out the doings of this ferry captain Brittany Catanzaro. Youngest ferry captain for New York Waterway (19 years old.) First female ferry captain on the Hudson. I think of what I was doing at 19, and I have to be pretty impressed. I wasn't given that kind of responsibility.