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In our technologically advanced age, it may be argued that science has taken the faith out of miracles. (This could be dangerous territory, so please note, in using the word faith, I ask that you apply your own definition. I am not attempting to start a grand theological debate.) From a rational standpoint I can understand the reasoning.
Many of the phenomena and natural mysteries ascribed to a higher power in centuries past have now been stripped of their supernatural explanations. The progress made in the last fifty years alone has brought us to a deeper level of understanding of – and control over – the world around us. We are able to cure hundreds of diseases previously thought to be fatal, watch atoms as they collide, and land unmanned craft on Mars. In his most fanciful writings, Jules Verne may have predicted some of our most incredible achievements, but we have made them a reality. Do we still have room for faith in this new world?
Fortunately, I do not think this argument is an either/or situation. Science and faith can, and maybe should, coexist. I think it is important at times to put aside our rationale, our reasoning, and our logic, and acknowledge an occurrence that has all the characteristics of a miracle.
A miracle, as defined by Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” Or, if you prefer its second definition, “an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.” (Webster’s is nothing if not all-inclusive.)
Before the sun set on January 15, newscasters around the country were describing the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 as a miracle. And indeed, whichever definition you choose, the successful “ditching” of the US Airways flight into the Hudson River, and the subsequent water rescue, was an extraordinary and outstanding event.
US Airways Flight 1549 Crash Lands in Hudson River
After encountering a flock of birds just moments after takeoff, the Airbus A320 lost thrust in both engines, forcing the crew to prepare for an emergency landing. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a leading expert in aviation safety, realized that he would be unable to pilot the plane to any of the region’s airports, and chose instead to put the plane down in the icy waters off midtown Manhattan.
Sullenberger managed, to land the plane going in excess of 150 miles an hour, in close proximity to several boat terminals. A water landing, no matter what the circumstances, is always a high risk endeavor. An aircraft hitting the water at the wrong angle or speed, can easily break apart. Sullenberger’s decision, based on his training and experience, was made to ensure that rescue for his passengers and crew would be almost immediate. For the 155 aboard the flight, waiting on the wings and the inflatable slides of the aircraft, hypothermia was a very real, and potentially fatal threat. Within 4 minutes of the ditching, a ferry boat was able to reach the downed plane and start loading passengers.
In the weeks since this event, Sully Sullenberger has been hailed a hero, as have the members of his crew, and the first responders who reacted so quickly to an event that would seem impossible for many of us to comprehend. And while the NTSB and the FAA will write up their reports on the facts and figures of what went wrong, I hope that people will not forget all that went right that day. That on January 15, under extraordinary conditions, we witnessed a miracle.