Saturday, January 17, 2009
"Miracle on the Hudson" Co-Pilot is My Neighbor
Jeffrey Skiles, the co-pilot to Chesley Sullenberger, the only pilot in the history of commercial aviation to ditch a plane in water with no deaths or major injuries, lives in my town, Oregon WI. Jeff and Barb Skiles, my phone book informs me, live over on Foxridge Rd. As you know, Skyles and Sullenberger thoroughly searched the plane to be sure no one had been left behind, before abandoning it themselves.
"Well," you may be thinking, "aren't you special!" Actually I draw almost the opposite conclusion. What the press often reports as "heroism" must be very common, or the human race would never have survived the first million years of its battles with the unforgiving and indifferent cruelty of nature.
Notice how all those ferry boats appeared around the plane, quickly pulling passengers to safety. That river water was barely above freezing. Go into that and you have minutes to live. Meanwhile, the public servants who are paid to rescue people were flying uselessly overhead in helicopters. If these the passengers had waited for Leviathan to lumber into motion, there would have been deaths. Fortunately, there are plenty of decent people around who do their jobs skillfully and find it embarrassing to be called heroes.
Added Later: I'm not really sure what I should think of calling all the people who saved lives here heroes. I don't mind doing so, provided that we realize that we are reconfiguring the idea of a hero. We're no longer going with the Hercules/El Cid/George Washington paradigm. Notice that two of these were real people, who actually did heroic things -- so the old idea shouldn't be abandoned (if we do so) because it was unrealistic. Indeed, Sullenberger is something of a Hercules, isn't he? BTW, on the matter of being embarrassed to be called a hero, take a look at this.