The frigid cold has been the big story…until Thursday afternoon, when a US Airways jetliner with 155 people aboard lost power in both engines (reportedly from sucking in geese, poor things), after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. The pilot made and emergency landing in the icy Hudson River. A few weeks ago, I took off from a New York area airport. As I listened to the flight attendant give the usual safety instructions about inflating life vests and whatnot, I looked down and marveled at how much dark, extremely cold-looking water surrounds New York. “No way,” I thought. Crash landing in it in the coldest part of the winter–it made me ache just to think about it. Not to mention the crash that would certainly come before.
I never could have imagined what really happened yesterday. The pilot landed gracefully in the center of the Hudson at West 48th Street. A witness in a penthouse described it as a perfect landing, as if it were cement. The plane floated instead of sinking immediately and instantly, three commuter ferries sped towards it. A ferry passenger said on an evening news program that trained rescue workers and ferry captains and passengers everyone began working as one, lifting and carrying, some women gathered in the back of the ferries helping warm the frozen passengers. Witnesses and officials called what happened miraculous, and of course they mean the skill of the pilot and the quick proximity of rescue vessels. But what also feels miraculous is watching goodness and wisdom and compassion arise spontaneously spontaneously. The pilot and the rescue workers had trained for this. Yet, and we’ve seen this before in New York, even those without rescue rush towards catastrophe to help.
Here’s a provocative idea: As above, so below. Sometimes the body knows just what to do without a thought. Sometimes many bodies know how to work together in harmony for a greater good, without many words needing to be exchanged. Sometimes in the midst of a great shock, our hearts open to humanity. Just as our bodies have the potential to respond to a need instinctively and with speed and grace, our hearts are also made to open, to assent to reality, to break out of the bubble of our own self-interest to love our fellow humans.