Friday, January 16, 2009

Chesley B. Sullenberger III

For all the negativity we hear about the airline industry these days, I don't know that there are enough accolades to shower upon the pilot who successfully splash-landed his US Airlines jetliner into the freezing waters of New York City's Hudson River yesterday. Not only did all 155 people on board survive, but the only significant injury at all was to a person who suffered two fractured legs.

Yes, pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III was only doing his job, but if everyone in the world did their job that well, automakers wouldn't be in trouble, the economy wouldn't be in shambles, and the shower in my master bathroom would work.

Chesley's wife says that talk of her husband being a hero is "a little weird." Weird for her, maybe, but inspiring for others. He's the type of guy this country needs more of. He's not Jack Bauer, he's a real hero. He's the type of hero that makes a difference just by doing his job, and doing it well.

On Tuesday, President elect Obama is going to be sworn into office and his mantra of "hope" will become something America clings to with anxious anticipation. Before we can hope, however, this country needs pride. Sully had pride in himself and took pride in his job, and look where it got him. Look where it got the other 154 people on board his aircraft. And look what it got the families and friends of those people he saved.

Hope is little more than a word that might help us sleep at night, no more tangible than any other wish or dream. Why do, when you can hope? Accolades shouldn't stop with Sully. The crew did their part. As did the people sitting in the emergency exit rows. As did the rescue teams. And as did everyone on board, who ensured that calm was maintained as they evacuated the sinking plane.

It wasn't hope that saved 155 lives, it was the preparation of a pilot and the level-headed response of the crew and passengers. There was no time to hope, just time to pull together and make things happen.

Hope is nice, but so are puppies, kittens and rainbows. Pride? Now that is something that we can really build our future on.

Just ask anyone on US Airlines flight 1459.

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