Remembering the Miracle on the Hudson

It has been five years since January of 2009 when US Air Flight 1549 collided with a flock of geese over the Hudson River and lost power to its engines. The event is worth remembering. Here is the post I wrote at the time.

Like most of you, I was amazed at the skill and split-second judgment of Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of US Air Flight 1549, as he put the plane down in the Hudson River with no loss of life. I watched one video clip in astonishment that showed passengers climbing out onto the wings of the plane within 25 seconds after the plane settled down after the splash. One of the ferries arrived on the scene three minutes later! As I listened to and read the various news reports over the next several days, the
praise for the crew, the first responders, the passengers, and all concerned continued to grow. In response to all of this Captain Sullenberger said, “We were simply doing the jobs we were paid to do.”

But here is truth the news stories left out. The safety of all of those on the plane is directly attributable to God and his purposes. As King Nebuchadnezzar declared 2,500 years ago, God does as he pleases with the peoples of the earth!

However, suppose Captain Sullenberger had not been able to effect a flawless water landing. Suppose, just as he was about to touch down, that a sudden burst of wind had caught one of the wings and caused the plane to sideslip into a spectacular cartwheel that would have resulted in the deaths of all 155 passengers on board. The Miracle on the Hudson would have become the Tragedy on the Hudson. 

If this had happened, would it have been because the pilot was less skilled? Would the flight crew have been less capable? Would the first responders have been any less alert? No, not at all. Yet, if this event had ended in significant loss of life, this same pilot’s judgment would have been questioned. Questions could have been asked about why the first responders were not on the scene more quickly. What is the difference between the hypothetical scenario I just described and the actual event? The difference would have been because of the purposes and actions of God.

From miracle to tragedy – the cause of both is found in the purposes of God. When God chooses to show his forbearance and preserve lives, it is an opportunity to explain to your children that God shows mercy so that man would be reminded of God’s control and reach out to him in repentance. If this event had resulted in a dramatic loss of life, it would also have been a merciful reminder that God is God, that people’s lives are in his hands and it is foolish to delay repentance.

Parents, use opportunities like this one to remind your children (and yourself) just how dependent we are upon God even for our next breath. Encourage your children to learn their responsibilities well, as Captain Sullenberger did. But then call them to entrust themselves to God, the One who holds all things in the power of his mighty hand.

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