Crisis creates community.
I’ve long believed in the basic truth of this simple three-word phrase. To me, it’s a statement that reflects how difficult times bring us closer together, often summoning the best of the human spirit. In grief, or shock, or trauma, people connect. Feelings spill out. Closeness emerges. There’s a melting, and an overwhelming sense of unity. We have seen it in the aftermath of dramatic tragedies such as the school and movie theater shootings. We see it every day in the faces of loved ones coming to grips with cancer or accidents or other major loss and struggle. And we see it in moments when what could have been a tragedy turned into something very different.
That’s what happened four years ago today with the Miracle on the Hudson, the splashdown landing of US Airways Flight 1549 masterminded by Captain Sully Sullenberger. That potentially horrific crisis moment created instant community among the flight crew and 150 passengers, who acted just as wisely and courageously after that plane plunged into the frigid Hudson as Sully did to give them a chance at life. Those passengers bonded that day to help save each other’s lives, and they remain closely bonded today. More than 50 of them got together a couple of days ago to re-enter the salvaged plane of their life-transforming day on exhibit in Charlotte.
Sully’s heroic feat has created ripples of community all over the world, among those who watched what happened in awe. Katie Couric featured many members of the Sully-spurred community today on “Katie” in her focus on the four-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson:
Guests included one woman whose father died piloting a plane that crashed. Sully’s descriptions of his thoughts and actions in the cockpit gave her a sense of peace that ended years of torment and wonder about what her father must have been experiencing in his final moments alive.
A convoy truck driver shared how he wrote “Sully” on the gloves he wore on combat missions in Iraq. He believes that his connection to what Sully did helped to deliver him home safely.
Katie also introduced five young children born to passengers of Flight 1549 in the last four years, births that would not have happened if everyone had not made it out alive. I was especially touched to see passenger Don Norton hand over his two-year-old son to Sully to hold. When Don and his wife celebrated the birth of their child two years ago, on the anniversary date of the Miracle on the Hudson, they knew only one name for the boy would fit: Hudson.
Don’s story of his experience on that day in the Hudson River, and in the first six months therefater, is featured in the book that I co-authored: Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life.
The anniversary for me is a vivid reminder of the community of 25 passengers and first responders that co-author Dorothy Firman and I presented through the personal accounts in our book. All the while I was working on that gratifying project, I kept hearing those words over and over in my head:
Crisis creates community.
– Kevin Quirk, co-author of Brace for Impact, is a memoir and autobiography ghostwriter who helps people of all ages and backgrounds tell the most meaningful stories of their lives.