Thursday, January 15, 2009

1/15/09 Plane rescue

I was driving home from work today when I heard about the extraordinary story of a disabled airplane landing in the Hudson River today, and everyone getting out alive and mostly uninjured. Absolutely amazing. I have a thing for survival stories, so real-life current ones are especially exciting.

This particular plane crash involved a nice convenient sinking, which gives a whole lot more time, visibility and fresh air than a fire, which I've heard is really what most plane crashes turn into. Not to mention landing so close to a ferry terminal -- it doesn't get better than that! They were swarmed by boats within minutes.

In the old days, my thoughts would turn immediately to, "What if I were on that plane?" I have confidence in my own ability to scramble to safety; I'm agile and resourceful, I can swim and climb, I'm not claustrophobic or acrophobic and not given to panic. If there's a way out, there's a decent chance I'd get out.

But that was before I was a mother. Now my first thought is, "How would I rescue my children?" It's unthinkable, but I can't help thinking about it. In an emergency, who would I unstrap first? How would I keep track of all three? How would they react -- would they listen to my pointed instructions to go now? Would I send the boys ahead, away from me, while I stayed behind to get Katrina? Would they go? Could I fight my way through panicked crowds carrying a toddler and keep the boys moving? Would people help me? What if we had to get in water -- would I be forced to make a choice who I'd save? Would I leave them if it became clear the only person who could possibly be saved was myself?

Chilling thoughts. Futile, upsetting, perhaps even counterproductive -- but will any of my critics say they've never envisioned scenarios like this themselves? It's unavoidable, and perhaps necessary to face my worst fears. Those terrifying wild-imagination thoughts were reality today, for 155 very very lucky people.


p.s. I wonder if this will re-ignite the debate about mandatory retirement age of 60 for pilots. The pilot is 58.

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