Friday, January 16, 2009

Grace and Peace

Watching the first hand accounts of yesterday's US Airways flight's ditch into the Hudson River, I was struck, over and over and over, by the sense of calm and peace that pervaded all the statements of the passengers. It's not often we have the opportunity to talk to an entire group of people who came so near their own deaths, and I am overwhelmed by the sense of quiet and centered peace so many of them experienced during and after the event. Person after person recounted the calm that pervaded the scene, even after the plane was down and filling rapidly with water. There simply wasn't any panic. Instead, it seems almost every person aboard put others needs in front of their own. "It wasn't about me," I heard people say, "it was about helping others."

All their steady selflessness has made me especially contemplative. Why, I silently wondered, were all those people so calm in that terrible situation? Why was there no panic or shoving to save themselves instead of one person after another helping others make their escape?

And because this happened on the Hudson River, within easy distance of lower Manhattan, because it was New York City and involved a jet plane, because of all that I couldn't help but think of how we've changed as human beings in the seven years since that terrible day in September of 2001.

Before 9/11, would people have been so solid, so ready to jump in and help each other survive such a terrifying event and situation as they were here? Did we all, as a Nation, come so close to death on that terrible day that we are now calm and solid in the face of horrible events and situations, whether personal or societal? Or were we like that all along?

Perhaps the true beauty of human beings is our ability to endure, and not just endure, but endure with grace and peace of soul.

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