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Meditation 739
That Miracle on the Hudson

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I don't think that there was a news story which did not refer to the 16th of January emergency landing of flight 1549 on the Hudson River as a miracle.

Fair enough. My dictionary[1] provides three definitions of miracle.

  1. Act of God
  2. Amazing event
  3. Marvellous example of skill

I would suggest that nearly all of us, regardless of our religious views, would agree that this particular event in which every passenger survived fits under both the second[2]and third definitions.

I found it interesting that in the passenger interviews which I saw or read about, everyone gave full credit to the pilot. Oh yes, when asked what what going on in the plane when it became apparent they were in serious trouble, it was stated that a number of passengers prayed. And that's understandable. Yet, when everything went well, the pilot and crew got the full credit from the passengers, not answered prayers.[3]

And that's the way it should be. Captain Sullenberger seems to have spent his entire flying career preparing for this type of incident. He rose to the occasion. And so did his crew.

But imagine that it had been far worse. Suppose, in spite of the pilot's outstanding efforts, only a handful had survived. We would have been hearing from one or more of the survivors "My prayers were answered" and "God saved me for a purpose."

Why do people find it easier to give credit to their God when he is highly selective about those he apparently saves?


  1. Encarta World English Dictionary, 1999, p1154
  2. ...though it may be less of an amazing event than we think. In the past year there have been four major aircraft accidents/incidents which previously would have been expected to cause major loss of life, and in which all passengers survived. This is attributed to better aircraft design and better crew training and reaction.
  3. I saw just one single letter to the editor on this subject (from a non-passenger, Jane Anderson) in the Globe and Mail of 17 January, which said in part:
    That arresting picture of survivors crowded on the floating jet's wings provides a whole new perspective to "on a wing and a prayer." Two wings, many prayers - answered.