A US Airways jet crash landed in the Hudson River today. There were more than 150 people on board Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte North Carolina. At this writing all reports indicate everyone made it off the plane alive. The FAA says preliminary reports indicate the plane struck a bird.
But it was not the cause of the crash I was thinking about when I watched the scene unfold on television. I was thinking about the horrifying moments the people on the aircraft endured and are still enduring. When the pilot told them to brace for impact, every single human being in the plane began going through an experience that told them they were in their last moments. They were dying. Their it-can’t-happen-to-me syndromes forever destroyed.
Moments like the passengers and crew endured and lived through, like the moments I lived through in 1984 after a teenager put a gun to my head and shot me, are moments that rip apart and blister away any emotional defense system that may have been meeting the challenges of daily life. There are no daily life challenges that prepare you for the merciless onslaught of unexpected imminent death. You go through them naked. Fully exposed. Your heart and soul bared. Your entire being covered in terror’s icy lace.
Then, if you live, people will tell you that you are lucky. And you wonder what they are talking about because you don’t feel lucky. You don’t feel lucky because you aren’t lucky. You are not lucky to be in a plane the has to crash land. You are not lucky to get shot in the head at point blank range by a drugged up teenager. What you are is blessed. You are blessed to be alive. I am blessed and so are all those who lived through that trauma today. So are those who live through all life threatening traumas.
But don’t call us lucky. We are dealing with what did happen, not with what could have happened.