The water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 and the rescue of all 155 aboard is truly a tremendous feat, if not-as some say-a miracle. The quick thinking of the pilot and co-pilot, the decisive actions of flight attendants, the passengers’ relative calm in the midst of chaos, and the flawless, timely rescues by passing boats and helicopters made for a tragedy that could have been, but wasn’t.
Who among us didn’t feel a sense of awe as we took in television or radio accounts of The Miracle on the Hudson, as it’s been dubbed?
But, what we should also recognize is that all that surrounded The Miracle was “the way it’s meant to happen.” Well, except for the birds in the engines, that is.
The system worked! Think about that. That’s the way it is supposed to be.
Who did not go home that day thinking, “I’m honored to have done my part. I was in the right place at the right time.”
It’s reasonable to conclude that passengers would heap mounds of praise on the crew and that both passengers and crew would heap mounds of praise on the rescuers. Each would probably say, “I was just doing my job.”
In fact, one of the rescuers, a scuba diver, described the training that equipped him to work in freezing Hudson River water that is totally black just inches beneath the surface. When submerged, they couldn’t see anything, so they worked by feel.
When a reporter asked if he felt fear when he jumped from the hovering helicopter, he paused, then said, “No, there wasn’t time for that. There were just people to be rescued from the freezing water.”
There are many lessons from this, but one stood out to me today while at the drive through window of a local fast food restaurant, the one with yellow arches outside. Oftentimes, such places don’t attract the most enthusiastic workers. For many, it’s just a job and a way to pay the bills which often gets played out as disinterest and rudeness.
I couldn’t see the woman who took my order, but her voice came clearly and professionally through the speaker. After carefully repeating my order and giving me the total, she concluded with a confident, “Thank you for your order, sir. Please pull forward at your convenience.”
I handed her the money when I reached the window. She was a 50s-something African American woman with graying hair pulled tightly away from her face. I inquired if she was the person who took my order. “Yes,” she said, “why do
I looked her in the eyes and said, “Because I have never been treated so professionally here. You have lots to teach others about customer service.”
As I said it, I thought about the people whose actions lead to the safe outcome of Flight 1549. Someone was there to thank them–even though they were just “doing their jobs” just like this woman.
Her eyes sparkled. The smile on her face was real. “You just made my day,” she said.
As I pulled away I couldn’t help but think, “That, too, is the way it’s supposed to be.”