The New York Times today reports that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, hero pilot of US Airways 1549, has been invited to the Inauguration by President-Elect Obama. It’s nice to see that the airplane pilot is being so honored. I'd like to see the captain of the first ferryboat to arrive on scene be honored alongside (Capt. Vincent Lombardi of the MV Thomas Jefferson). Why?
I heard him speak briefly when Mayor Bloomberg issued commendations and thanks to everyone involved. The matter-of-fact way in which he and his crew reacted, bringing in the Coast Guard, and all the other ferryboats from NY Waterway who rescued the passengers and aircrew and brought them to shore - this is what brings tears to my eyes, over and over whenever I think of it.
Ordinary citizens, albeit trained to respond in emergencies, doing the right thing, the heroic thing, without a second thought - that is the greatness of the American spirit. That the pilot landed his plane on the river, safely - that is a tremendous thing, and speaks to the individual greatness cultivated by the Founding Fathers.. That the rest of the citizenry pulled together to accomplish a rapid rescue - that, to me, is even greater, and speaks to the spirit of Americans time and again, joining together to overcome adversity.
(Submitted to the NY Times, 19 Jan 09)