“Brace for Impact”
Composed and focused, the pilot instructed the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 to get ready for their impending plane crash. Within seconds, the plane would crash into the Hudson River, but for once, all passengers would survive.
I’m sure you have all seen the remarkable photo of the survivors standing on the wing of the airplane, a nearly biblical image of men and women appearing to stand on water. (Certainly an image that will remain in my mind’s eye for a long time to come.) The event has been called miraculous, but ever-the-atheist, I dislike using this word, and would prefer to credit the skills and calm reactions of the captain and his crew. Passengers report that they remained quiet, and simply watched their fate unfold. One passenger had sufficient possession of his faculties to remember switching on his phone. Perhaps the GPS signal would help others locate his dead body.
But they did not die. Each and every one survived. And I have learned something fascinating from their reports. I had always assumed that these situations would raise mass hysteria, and that the frenzy would only end with death. In fact, in an earlier blog post on the most recent Batman movie, The Dark Knight, I criticized the movie’s portrayal of the reaction of a large group of people in the face of impending death. I was convinced that people would panic, scream and run around frantically like headless chickens. Now I know that I was wrong.