Letter From New York January 7, 2010

Or: as it seems to me

The Right Thing

On Tuesday evening of this week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the world premiere of BRACE FOR IMPACT, the incredible story of US Airways Flight 1549 and Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the man who a year ago became a beacon of hope and light for Americans [and I suspect a lot of other people around the world] when he did the unthinkable and safely landed an Airbus in the Hudson River. Everyone was saved; no one was hurt. A legend was born.

Dan Birman, a friend and colleague from my days with the Television Academy, produced the documentary for TLC; he told the story well. It did what a good documentary should – kept me engaged, wanting more, satisfied with what I saw and caused me a moment when tears came to my eyes. Take a bow, Mr. Birman.

It was the story of the Captain, the crew, the passengers, the flight, the air controllers, the rescuers – all the people whose lives intersected in that short frame of time when history was made. It is a story of people who did things correctly, calmly, bravely, on all levels and on all fronts, people who in a moment of crisis saw what needed to be done and did their duty in the moment of need. There was a Captain and a crew who turned training into life saving actions and maintained their calm and professionalism as they moved through the crisis of their lives. Air controllers maintained their calm. Passengers did not panic. Ferry crews shed their moorings and sped to the downed plane to pick up passengers and crew within minutes of the ditching. It was a moment in time when everything worked the way it was supposed to and the story captivated the world and continues to do so, as it should.

It was an especially important story happening against the backdrop of an economy in free fall when fear walked the land and folks felt as if nothing would or could go right again. It was a good story in a time when it seemed there could be no good stories.
And it was good for me to have seen this film, this week, to remind me, a year later that there are times when things work the way we hope they will work and that there are people who will do the right thing at the right time.

This is a week that could cause one to feel a bit of despair about the human race. A young, radicalized Muslim attempted to blow a jet liner out of the sky. An irate man walked into the Court House in Las Vegas and shot and killed before he was shot and killed. Another apparently irate man walked into a company in St. Louis and killed a few before he killed himself. Security contractors in Afghanistan are being held on suspicion they killed some Afghanis. A patrolwoman in a western state was killed by the driver of a car she’d pulled over. It has been a disturbingly busy week for killing – instances of men not doing the right thing, not rising to the occasion. As the rat a tat of arriving Breaking News stories arrived in my inbox there wasn’t anything to inspire me to more than a bleak view of the world in which I live.

And yet it is not as bleak as the breaking news indicates because we have the story of “Captain Sully” and all the brave people who made history that day. Despite all the grim news, there are stories of people doing the right thing at the right time and those stories have the power to lift us further than the dark stories can take us down. It is in our DNA, I think, to look up more than it is to look down. Thank you, Captain Sullenberger.

Take another bow, Mr. Birman. And the show airs on TLC this coming Sunday, January 10th, 2010. Take a look. Be inspired.

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One Response to “Letter From New York January 7, 2010”

  1. thatdogdonthunt Says:

    Talk about small world…Sully grew up in my hometown of Denison, Texas. Went to the same elementary, high school. Years before me, of course, but still…we do live on one planet after all. One observation I’d like to make is this: there’s something profoundly relevant about growing up in a small, country-bumpkin environment. For one, you are isolated from the trappings of following someone else’s shallow ego. The obscurity you are enveloped in can be your safety net, creating for yourself what really matters without realizing it. Viola’ – we have a “Sully” – and so many like him existing out there. Yes, his training was key. But he could just as easily have not taken his training so seriously preferring, instead, to think only of his own “arse” in this tragedy.

    I am DVRing this tonight. Thank you for this heads-up…

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