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From the Hudson to the Potomac: Courage and Hope for a Depressed Nation
Monday, 19 January 2009 11:28
by Walter Brasch

The people are good at anointing who they believe are heroes. It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling to know there are those among us who do extraordinary things, often at the risk of their own lives.

But, if you ask the true heroes, most will just say they were doing their job or doing something that needed to be done.

Chesley B. (Sully) Sullenberger, who ditched his aircraft in the Hudson on Thursday, is by all accounts a hero. When he had a “double bird strike” and lost all power shortly after taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport, he had to quickly calculate a few thousand things, the most important of which was how to get his aircraft down without hurting anyone on the plane or in a projected landing area below.

He made a 180 degree turn and ditched into the nearly-frozen Hudson River. The extremely hazardous landing was textbook perfect. Not one passenger was killed; a few suffered minor injuries; a flight attendant had a leg fracture.

But there were others who we could call heroes. The co-pilot and three flight attendants did their jobs perfectly, getting passengers off the plane in about 90 seconds. Capt. Sullenberger was the last off the plane, having made two trips to make sure no one was left on board.

The rescue of 155 persons was one of the finest examples of extraordinary preparation and training for something no one hopes will ever happen. Captains of tour boats and ferries quickly maneuvered to the plane to assist. There was a quick and efficient response by the Coast Guard, New York City fire and police, emergency management, paramedics, divers, social service agencies, medical staffs, air traffic controllers, and numerous others.

Today, Barack Obama will symbolically take over a crippled ship of state that by all accounts is sinking, having crashed on the rocks by the maneuvering of an inept captain and a crew of arrogant bumblers.

He will have to make innumerable decisions to stabilize this nation from the chaos of what his predecessor created, both foreign and domestic.

Let’s hope that President Obama has the ability and the courage to do what is necessary to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States and, like "Sully," maneuvers this nation into calmer waters, while protecting a passenger list of about 300 million.

After four years, if he accomplishes what needs to be done, we won’t call him a hero. We’ll just give him our thanks for doing his job extraordinarily well.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2008), available through amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.]

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