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Lack of loss of life in recent plane mishap is truly one of life’s miracles

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By Stacey Manning, Managing Editor

If you’ve had the misfortune of sitting right beside me on a plane ride to anywhere, let me apologize. I’m one of those people who hate to fly, but I do it because I understand the value and time-savings the service provides.

Seeing me on a plane, probably at first you wouldn’t know I had any flight issues at all. During the loading process, you’ll likely see me reading a book or flipping through a magazine. I might even stare out the window if I can see from where I am. And for most of the flight, that’s exactly how you’ll see me, reading, looking out the window or sometimes, if I’m lucky, dozing off.

But, for those who sit right next to me, the evidence of my flying phobia is clearer. If you’re right next to me, I’m always grateful for those who don’t mind giving up the armrests—during takeoff and landing. I need them so my fingers can white-knuckle grip them until the point at which I feel like we’re safely up in the sky or back on the ground.

Also, don’t worry about me too much if every big bump on takeoff and landing makes me jump. Trust me, in my head, I’m doing the best I can to convince myself that every bump, dip, shake or sound is “normal.”

Thank goodness I wasn’t one of the 155 people on board U.S. Airways Flight 1549 last week. As countless news sources have reported, the flight was on takeoff when it apparently ran into a flock of birds, possibly large Canadian geese.

The impact apparently blew out at least one of the plane’s engines, although investigation continues into determining what the pilot’s reported “double strike” means—two engines out or two birds into one engine?

Regardless, it was a scary experience for everyone on board. Within moments of getting cleared for takeoff, passengers reported hearing loud noises, followed by a smell of smoke and the pilot instructing them to brace for impact.

My goodness. I can’t imagine. It’s my biggest fear played out.

But somehow, the skill of the pilot and co-pilot, a whole lot of luck, and what has to be some type of divine intervention, perfectly intertwined and when the plane finally came to a stop in the middle of the cold Hudson River, not a life onboard was lost.

But the incident was more than that. It was a show of the human spirit. Reports indicate pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger walked the aisles of the plane several times before leaving himself. He wanted to make sure everyone else got off safely before he did.

Outside the wrecked craft, boats and ferries of all sizes descended on the area, all wanting to do the same thing—to help those in trouble. Little thought was given, so it seems, to the danger they were putting themselves into to help others.

The result—miracle—no doubt—and a beautiful display of human spirit.

Sullenberger and all those who worked on board Flight 1549, and all those who rushed to help, are heroes.

And I am left at least with hope, that every big bump, every strange sound, every flutter of the next flight I am on won’t likely end in tragedy. Thank goodness, but just in case, do you mind if I have your armrest?