As I write, gifted storytellers Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks are working on a movie to depict the stunning story of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, with 155 passengers, ditched in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009. Not one life was lost. Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his crew performed heroically that day on so many fronts.
At the time of the crash, Sully was hailed a hero not only for saving all 155 passengers onboard, but the countless potential victims he spared by managing to steer away from heavily-populated Manhattan. Somehow, he guided the lifeless Airbus A320 past the packed George Washington Bridge, missing by just 900 feet.
After safely overseeing the evacuation of all his passengers, including a mother and baby, he walked the length of the downed jet twice to ensure no one was left behind, before leaving last of all himself.
1. Crisis forces you to prioritize.
No one is immune from adversity, and yet it’s human nature that we don’t give much thought to our ability to cope with a serious problem until we are actually faced with a crisis.
We all set our clocks back but did we really check our smoke detectors. Do they function, did we put in new batteries and do we even have smoke detectors? Do we have supplies for an emergency, are we prepared?
Do you know what happened on Flight 1549? Nobody opened the overhead bins to retrieve their personal belongings. What seemed valuable when they boarded meant nothing to them since they were in crisis. Interestingly, all passengers got off the plane in just 90 seconds.
Crisis forces you to focus and prioritize. What is most important right now in your life? What should be your priority? Don’t wait for crisis to focus or for disaster to prepare.
You’ve probably read stories about survivors of crisis and disaster who talk about how they’ve grown through their experiences, and many have gone on to discover their purpose or focus in life as a result. What needs to change in your life now?
C.S. Lewis wrote: "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny."
2. Crisis represents danger and opportunity.
Although the landing in the Hudson River of Flight 1549 was dangerous, many rescue ships and first-responder personnel helped passengers to get safely rescued before the Airbus sank. In any crisis there is always opportunity to work toward something helpful. While some run from the danger and opportunity, others run in and assist.
Who needs your help now? Who can you provide rescue to, affirmation for and encouragement to?
3. Crisis is best navigated by those who are best prepared.
Like all pilots, Sully Sullenberger was trained in advance for possible emergency situations, including engine failure.
While no one can be prepared for everything, you should prepare the best you can for what can come your way and to prepare for those who may need your assistance in crisis. Do all you can to be prepared for crisis and emergency and I hope you never need to use your preparation. As well, learn from the experiences of others.