You are viewing bradhicks

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Brad @ Burning Man
First, let me disclaim something: this is probably not going to be the best writing job I've ever done. I know what I do best. What I do best, in writing, is a factual essay on a subject I'm very interested in, where I calmly and rationally explain relevant history and facts and where I compare and contrast multiple opinions. Some of you think I do that well enough that I should be doing it for a living; I can say that when I was well enough to work in an office environment, much of my most highly praised work was in documentation. But this isn't going to be a documentation piece. I want to try to do something here that I'm constitutionally very, very bad at: express strong emotion. Because I keep getting chills about US Airways flight 1549, the same way I kept getting chills for days after Hurricane Katrina, only for the opposite reason. I do not remember the last time I was so proud of so many people at once. It probably hasn't been since I found out about the nothing less than brilliantly designed, brilliantly executed management plan that the survivors at the abandoned, forgotten overflow shelter at the New Orleans Convention Center organized themselves and ran their own shelter by that I have felt this proud of so many people at one time.

And unlike Katrina, I keep wanting to freak out over the things that really should have or could have gone wrong and didn't. For example, not being a New Yorker and not being intimately familiar with the Hudson River at that point, it wasn't until I saw tonight's Rachel Maddow Show that I realized that while trying to fly an unpowered jetliner at the minimum stall speed, Captain Sullenberger had to deal with the teensy little obstacle that the optimum glide path would have crashed him and his passengers into the crowded George Washington Bridge. We'll know when we see the FTSB report, but my guess based on the physics is that he must have managed to dive for speed before getting to it and then use that speed to climb above it ... so smoothly that the passengers described it as "going over a speed bump."

But flight 1549 has something else in common with Hurricane Katrina for me. I keep getting enraged at some politicians and spokesmen for some of the genuinely awful, genuinely stupid, actually malevolently evil things that they're saying about it. And none of them has so far affected me so strongly as New York governor David Patterson's oft-reported description of this as "a miracle." And yes, I know he's not the only one who's calling it that. So let me try to find the under-used, or perhaps over-used, vocabulary to try to explain something very, very important to me. This was no mother fucking "miracle." This was a job. Praise one or more gods on your own time. The real reason that 155 people lived through this is that dozens, maybe hundreds of ordinary men and women with jobs to do were well-trained for those jobs, and when the time came to do so they did their jobs, and they did them right and did them well. Most of them even did the exact right thing on the first try; those that didn't, fixed their mistakes correctly in plenty of time.

Perhaps you misunderstand why this is so important to me, so let me be pedantically clear about it. This is not about religion, not about the majority religion, not about my feelings about my religion, their religion, or religion in general. It is about something much more important than that, or at least, something much more important to me than God, whether "He" exists or not, or the gods I worship, or anything else in the world for that matter, and that is this. If we believe that survival during a disaster is "miraculous"? If we believe that it is entirely up to God who lives or who dies when something goes wrong? Then far too many of us will leave it up to God to save people.

Sully Sullenberger didn't leave it up to God whether his passengers were going to live or die. He spent a large percentage of his professional life taking time out to practice in simulation how to land a commercial jetliner without engines. When he decided that wasn't enough, he then went on to make a professional study, on his own time, of commercial aviation safety, so much so that telling other people what he learned from studying it turned into a second job for him. And (more goosebumps again) he decided, years ago?, that that wasn't enough margin for safety for him, so he went on to learn to become a certified glider pilot. Nor should you call it a "miracle" that US Airways flight 1549 had someone like Sully Sullenberger at the helm, because that's what commercial aviation is like. If you look at the records of every civil aviation disaster in history, you see the same thing in the story of the pilot at the helm of all of them: the same fierce lifelong determination to be prepared for disaster in any form, and the same calm professionalism on the rare occasions that disaster strikes. Yeah, 99.99% of the day to day job is being a glorified bus driver stuck in traffic. But the other 0.01% of the job is part of the job too, and the history of commercial aviation is chock-full of people who did it.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have never believed in leaving it up to God whether or not the passengers are going to live through an accident. Since deregulation of the industry, airlines have gone so far as to eliminate pillows to reduce weight in their airliners in order to save weight and reduce fuel costs: you think they were crazy about carrying gigantic self-inflating rafts, or life jackets for all passengers? If those seem like no-brainers to you, let me point out that in the news over the last several months there was a discussion, initiated by we don't know whom just yet, clearly intended to eliminate just those things. The argument went that almost never do airliners land in water. And when they do, they have to crash into the water at a minimum speed of about 140 miles per hour so the plane is going to break up and everybody is going to die anyway, it will be "up to God" who lives and who dies. But people at the NTSB and the FAA were having none of it, and you know why? Sooner or later, some airline pilot was going to have to do what Captain Sullenberg had to do the other day, and they weren't going to leave it up to God; screw the cost, those airliners were going to have rafts and life jackets. That decision saved 155 lives.

Here's another example. Almost all airline air crew employees retire without ever being in an aviation disaster. You could argue that it makes no sense to waste time training them for one, time that would be better served having them just do their job. But over the decades, people have studied the heck out of the disasters that did happen, and as a result we know an awful lot about disaster survival. We know that there are two things that, more than anything else, more even than good equipment and good preparation and good training, decide whether or not a group of people in a disaster together stay alive: someone in a recognized position of chain of command, even if it's just a stewardess in a cheap imitation of a World War II Air Force women's officer uniform, must be clearly seen to be in charge, that person must be relaying good and useful information, and most importantly, that person must remain calm and prioritize keeping everybody else calm. So even though almost no stewards or stewardesses will ever need to know how to do that, we not only train them on how to keep passengers calm during an evacuation, we drill them on it. And because they're not at the top of the chain of command, we put even more training, drill, and intense socio-cultural pressure on pilots, the commanders of the airplanes, to remain entirely calm no matter what goes wrong, and to (if anything) quietly understate the threat. Call it American fighter-pilot macho, call it British military stiff upper lip; call it whatever you like, but that calm professionalism saves lives. Not just in this disaster, but in any disaster. Captain Sullenberger, and his flight crew, are only the most recent vivid example of this in action.

(How well did they do it? According to an interview with literally the last passenger to get off of the sinking airliner, the flight attendants managed to keep things calm and orderly while they and the passengers evacuated a passenger with two broken legs through waist-deep 36°F water, water cold enough to kill you in five minutes. And a woman carrying a newborn infant, too, but it's the passenger with the broken legs that weirds even me out. I would dread having to do that through narrow airliner aisles on flat, dry ground; having to do it on a wet, slippery, slanted floor in water deep enough and dark enough that you can't even see where you're putting your feet? I'd dread that job even if there were no other passengers on the plane; whoever managed that can be proud of having had an extraordinarily good day at work.)

Nor were they the only ones prepared. New York isn't a city with a harbor, it's a harbor with a city, and has been since colonial times. New York's many harbors and riverways are why they built a city there in the first place. And part of waterfront culture in New York City, as in any reasonably well-functioning port city, is the "man overboard" drill. It's another disaster that seldom happens, and almost never during weather where it'd be a seriously life-threatening problem. So what? Practice it anyway. And so even though it was just an ordinary ferry boat captain who first pulled up to the hatch on flight 1549, "man overboard" drills are part of his job. This was just an unusually large "man overboard" drill: 155 people in water that will kill them in five minutes. So? Do it just like you did it every time it didn't matter: use the tools we make the boat carry and the training we make you practice all the time to get life jackets and life preserver rings and hooks and ropes and slings down to anybody in the water, and pull them up. It's just another day at work. If you know what you're doing, if you're any good at your job, you can even show random strangers how to do it. And that is exactly what happened. Real professionals had to do the really scary, really hard parts, like diving into the water in cold-water diving gear to rescue legitimately panicky people who'd drifted away from the floating wreck and from the rafts and who were legitimately about to drown. Being a real harbor run by real professionals who have no intention of waiting for a miracle to save those people, New York harbor has people to do that, and they got there barely in time. But by the time they'd gotten there, virtually everybody else had been rescued ... not just by the Coast Guard and the Transit Authority and the Harbor Patrol, but by dozens or hundreds of ordinary people who saw a job to do and did it.

And contrary to what some deeply sociopathic people in positions of intolerably high visibility and/or authority would tell you, that so many people did their jobs when it mattered is no "miracle of God," either. That's what ordinary people do, every day at work, by the untold billions: they do their job, as best as they can, and when the fit hits the shan, they try to salvage whatever they can. Every job has potential disasters, from tornado strikes to building fires, to mining disasters or other industrial accidents, to random crime on the premises. And in workplace after workplace, whenever there is a disaster, real ordinary working people do what they need to do. They do it calmly, and professionally, and with a little bit of quiet pride in their work afterwards. I do not begrudge anybody the feeling that no matter how bad something went, "that could have been a little worse; I think I did good today." No, what I begrudge is the professional sociopath, of either party and of any religion, who would rob the people who trained and prepared them of their credit, and rob the working people who did the job of their credit, to give "glory to God." God doesn't need the glory; he, she, it or they will be just fine without it. Pay attention to the people who did things right. Thank them, not God. And learn from their example, in case it's ever your turn to be the hero.

And you know what? If you take nothing else away from this essay, this: Be ashamed of yourself if you think that ordinary acts of heroism are somehow unlikely enough or unusual enough to be considered "miraculous."



Oh, and by the way, the first ten minutes of Friday's Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC were about just this topic, too. Because of their fierce determination to pay for the bandwidth by making you watch the maximum amount of commercial time first, I'm not sure my link to the actual story will work, but I think this is it: Rachel Maddow (with Stephen Flynn), "When Infrastructure Works," The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC TV, 1/16/09, transcript available. If you do find the video, be patient with the first minute or two, she's having to "tease" or set up all the rest of the news stories of the evening. Give it especially until about the minute and a half mark, where she brings on former Coast Guard commander Stephen Flynn to talk about what real professionals do to prepare for disaster, and what we should learn from them. After hearing him, I rushed out and ordered his book, The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resiliant Nation.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
phillipalden
Jan. 17th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
As usual, well said. That being said, the pilot did do a very good job, as did the cabin crew. But the passengers were also very well-behaved. If not for this, and a hundred other details, the situation might have turned out differently.

I like an actual "miracle" as much as the next Taoist, but I agree that many people overuse and abuse the word. People often overuse and abuse words. I always say the three most abused words in the English language are; love, hate and sorry.

And you can get emotional anytime, though I do respect your objectivity.
arturus
Jan. 17th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
Fuck yes.
kathrynt
Jan. 17th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
There is one tiny piece of the situation that I might term a "miracle," and that is the good fortune of the circumstances that the pilot was able to exploit into a non-fatality ditch. A huge part of skill is being able to capitalize on whatever luck you're granted, and he was certainly granted some luck.

That having been said -- you're dead right. This situation was the result of dozens or hundreds of people exhibiting raw human competence amidst harrowing circumstances, NOT the blessing of a capricious, interventionist God.
wiseacre
Jan. 17th, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)
Not to diminish Sully's accomplishments but please remember that pilot error is the leading cause of aircraft crashes. The the crash at Tenerife, the single worst aviation disaster in history, was the result of crew error. The Air Florida Flight 90 crash in Washington D.C. was also the result of crew error. Yes, much has been learned from these disasters and many other incidents, but air crew are simply human, albeit humans who do sometimes do great things.
pebblepup
Jan. 17th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, and when things go wrong because people got it wrong, we call that crew error, not an Act of God. So when things go right because people get it right...
samael7
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
The great Pratchett expounded breifly on this theme, the summary of which may be paraphrased thusly: Miracles don't have to be nice.
anton_p_nym
Jan. 17th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Pilot error is the leading cause of aircaft crashes now. It wasn't always so, or at least it wasn't always detectably so; we can thank the NTSB and its sisters world-wide for taking up the grim task of studying all the non-erronious crashes (and the errors, too) and learning how to prevent them in the future. And passing that information down to the Sullys of the world, who pay attention instead of shrugging and thinking it'd never happen to them.

Humans are flawed, yes, but we have the capacity to learn when we don't just attribute everything to the whims of the gods.

-- Steve holds with Lieutenant Chard, of Rourke's Drift; if it was a miracle, it was a man-made miracle forged of rehearsal and study and stubborn professionalism.
mothwentbad
Jan. 17th, 2009 06:32 am (UTC)
Fuck, yes. If weren't totally exhausted by this "thank God" shit, I would've wanted to slap someone, but now I don't have to, because you did for me, but much more eloquently.
xydexx
Jan. 17th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)
Very much yes to this.
kallisti
Jan. 17th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
Let me add my "YES!" to the chorus.

This is a story about a bunch of professionals doing their jobs damn well on very bad day at the "office". It involved things they hope never would happen, but that they train for just in case it does.

ttyl
inquisitiveravn
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
There are some MDs who don't get nearly enough credit for "miracle cures" who will appreciate this article even though it's not about medicine.

On a semi-related tangent, the NYC government apparently has about a dozen contingency plans for major disasters in the city. Plane crashes, industrial fires, any number of potential problems. I had the interesting experience a few years back of hearing Rudy Giuliani talk about responding to the 9/11 attacks. They didn't have a plan for it, but because he had the plans they did have down cold, he was able to improvise a response using elements taken from the existing plans.

And before anybody points out the problems with his pre-9/11 policies' on disaster preparedness, I know about them. I'm just talking about what he did that day.
martin_wisse
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
Fittingly enough, what happened in the WTC that day could've been so much worse as well, as investigations showed afterwards. Horrible disaster, several clusterfscks in the response but because people largely stayed calm, organised themselves and got each other out (helped greatly of course by the professionals coming to the rescue), the death toll was so much less than it could've been.

(One study also showed that disregarding two pieces of standard advice: not to use your phone or to use the elevators helped a lot as well with evacuating the buildings. Using lifts got so many more people out while being able to phone made people trapped in WTC know what was going on.)
kimchalister
Jan. 17th, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
Many years ago I had a friend who was a stewardess on TWA (remember TWA?). Every year she had a two-week training "camp" where they got training in first aid and medical and safety preparedness. It was pretty extensive, and intensive. And it was required. I know the very first stewardesses were required to be RNs.

Not a miracle at all.

but it makes me worry about what I would do if we had a disaster at my workplace....
bradhicks
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
Probably the answer is, "the best we could," unless infectious panic sets in. That being said: It's never a bad idea to take a first aid course. There's usually no rule against have a first aid kit in your desk drawer and in your car. False alarms on fire detectors are great practice. Playing "spot the fire extinguishers" and trying to guess where they keep the first aid kit are both fun games when you walk into any new space, or at least I enjoy them. There are tons of great books about disaster survival, many of which are fun reads. None of these things are either expensive or terribly time consuming, and truth be told, they're all kind of fun. But all of that being said: when trouble hits in your building, you may end up being ridiculously surprised at the quiet professionalism of people who are otherwise contemptuously stupid and unpleasant the rest of the time, including rent-a-cops and an astonishingly high percentage of otherwise worthless middle managers. Infectious panic and selfishness are less common responses than most people think; rising to the challenge is much more common than most people think. We sell ourselves short as a species.
koogrr
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
There's an interesting comment along these lines regarding self-defense: Most people believe they will rise to the challenge, what is more likely is they will default to their level of training and practice.

Which emphasizes exactly what you're talking about. Drill the procedures till they're second nature, then they can be done while fighting off a panic.
brendanpodger
Jan. 17th, 2009 12:42 pm (UTC)
brooklynite
Jan. 17th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
As this TPM post suggests, Sullenberger appears to have been damn good AND damn lucky. He had enough altitude to give him options on the ditch. He had ready access to a wide, flat, smooth river -- one that may have been smoother than usual that morning. And the stretch of river he had access to happened to be filled with ferries and rescue craft.

And Sully's passengers and crew appear to have been damn good and damn lucky, too. They handled the situation with aplomb, but they also had Sully in the cockpit, and the impression I get is that even in comparison to other commercial pilots, he was pretty much exactly the right person for this job.

I don't tend to use the word "miracle" myself. But in casual conversation, a "miracle" doesn't have to be a religious event -- it can be nothing more than a good outcome that relies on a major stroke of good luck.

The incredible performances of the human actors involved were necessary but not sufficient conditions for this story's having such a positive ending. To land that plane under those conditions with no fatalities required incredible work by the people in and around the aircraft, and incredibly favorable conditions all the way through. That all those conditions came together that morning? If someone wants to call that a miracle, they can go right ahead.
dd_b
Jan. 17th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Tell 'em! I hadn't really quite reduced to words this bit of why I despise religion so much, so thatnks for that.

There was certainly a fair amount of luck, good and bad, involved. The initial problem was just bad luck so far as I can tell. But the most important part of luck is being able to exploit your opportunities; you have to perceive them, have the skill to put them to use, choose wisely, and then DO IT! And Sully managed excellently.

I preach about the relative unimportance of arguing about how to allocate blame in disasters (there always seems to be plenty to go around!). Well, this is the other side of that -- there's so much credit available that I think we can praise Sully AND the cabin crew AND the passengers AND the official rescuers AND the unofficial rescuers AND the FAA regulations, AND still have credit enough left to acknowledge that they were ALSO lucky.
hillarygayle
Jan. 17th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. I'm in an accelerated nursing school getting a BSN in a single year. It's HARD, but I am training to become a trauma nurse and save lives. And someday when I do, it will probably not be because God performed a miracle through me and stopped the flow of someone's blood (though I'm not ruling it out and if it does happen, I'll come back & report to you ^_~). It will be because I learned everything I could get my hands on about the coagulation pathway, the inflammatory response, and shock, and what I could do to encourage the processes that would help. It won't be a miracle. It will be my JOB, and I will do it well.

So yeah. Thanks again.
sunfell
Jan. 17th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
I agree with you completely, and like you want to scream when all the sky-pilots holler 'Miracle!'. My dad is a pilot, and said that this fellow did everything exactly right- down to hitting the 'ditch' button to keep the plane from sinking faster.

There are videos of the actual splash-landing on CNN now- and he did it perfectly- nose up, belly first, beautiful glide with a huge rooster-tail made by the wings. They'll know where to look for the engines, now.

I noticed that there were no engine smoke trails (and the passengers described the silence after the engines blew)- Scully was piloting a glider.

He did his job- and yes, he's a hero, but he did what he's trained and talked about for decades.

I joke about 'magic' and 'miracles' when I coax balky computers into working and pull my users' files out of the fire- but that is also my job- I know computers as well as Scully knows his aircraft dynamics. Yet, I hear those same things quite a lot. I turn it into a running joke. Fixing computers is my job- not a mission from any god.
contentlove
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
If you take nothing else away from this essay, this: Be ashamed of yourself if you think that ordinary acts of heroism are somehow unlikely enough or unusual enough to be considered "miraculous."


No, but thank you. What I take away is your opinion, and here's mine:

The fact that many people did their job is not in and of itself miraculous. The fact that everyone's particular piece of this dovetailed together, is actually very lucky and of course wonderful. The use of the word 'miracle' is not bothersome to me, although it's hyperbole, because in my direct experience, success in an event that involves dozens of people working in concert, not all of whom have previously coordinated their efforts, cannot occur unless everyone involved is skilled. But even when that is clearly the case, a certain amount of luck is involved.



Edited at 2009-01-17 10:03 pm (UTC)
silveradept
Jan. 17th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
The people who did all of this acted as they should have, as they were trained to do, and this time, everybody lives. Medals all around, and I think this is where someone should be saying "Helluva job."
belgatherial
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This is pretty much how I feel about it too. Only you were more coherent than I have been able to be. The story makes me tear up, and it's hard to explain that it affects me so profoundly because the human beings did the right stuff - all of them. The HUMANS. Bloody marvellous.
gefingerpoken
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
That was brilliant.
drewkitty
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
The combination of favorable circumstances was a low probability event. Too many weak minds confuse low probability with 'miracle' or 'curse.'

If any link in the chain had broken, the favorable circumstances would not have been enough to prevent loss of life. The effectiveness of the pilot and flight crew, flight attendants, ferry captains and crews, traditional responders including Coast Guard, police and fire departments, etc is neither miraculous nor the result of divine intervention, but the direct result of planning, training, preparedness and ruthless foresight. Plus a little time and money, too.

I am reminded of a spectacular success and a dramatic failure in this regard. Both small incidents of their type.

On Thursday, a car drove off the pier in Santa Cruz. This happens occasionally, enough so that they do planning for it. However they have chosen not to invest in SCUBA gear and training. The driver was not rescued in time and perished. A few years ago, a similar incident claimed two lives. Given that most of their rescues are cliff rescues and that the equipment and training for these rescues is complex and expensive, the rescue agencies have put their money where the most lives are. If you drive off the pier in Santa Cruz, hope that you remembered that five minute lesson in driver's ed a lifetime ago, because they are fresh out of miracles for you. (Wait until the car floods, don't panic, open the door once the pressure has equalized and swim upward.)

Note that I am not blaming Santa Cruz. They've made a resource allocation decision, and sometimes people die. But this is true of all resource allocation decisions, from bridge building to counter-terrorism. I am just puzzled why we "decided" that these should be made most efficiently by for-profit corporations.

$700 billion is an awful lot of lifesaving.

A few years back, a CALSTAR medical evacuation helicopter was dispatched to a bad wreck on a regional highway in bad weather and poor radio conditions. To make a long story short, they found a bad wreck, packaged three critical patients (cursing the lazy fire department for not setting up an LZ) and flew to the hospital. After landing, they were frostily informed that they had never arrived at the accident -- they had instead found their own unreported accident. Result: rescue of a mother and two small children that certainly would have died if CALSTAR had not just happened to fly by low and slow and spotted their overturned minivan on an unpatrolled side road. That's a genuine miracle. That the patient they were activated for survived a long trip by ground ambulance, another miracle if a smaller one.
bradhicks
Jan. 18th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
I will admit that your second story involves a freaky amount of luck, but something about your first story bothers me. If accidents like this happen frequently enough to train for them, then the people who decided not to invest the (face it, relatively trivial) cost to have someone on duty during peak hours for accidents who's SCUBA certified and a rudimentary breathing rig near the pier is doing exactly what I ranted against: instead of doing their job, they're "leaving it up to God" who lives and who dies. When yet another entirely foreseeable accident claims yet another life at that pier, I'm sure the funeral's pastor and the victim's families will say, "God called this person home," but it won't have been God who killed them. It will have been the negligence of the people who patrol and police that pier, people getting paid by the taxpayers to save lives who decided not to do the job and let God take care of it for them.
drewkitty
Jan. 18th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
It's a tough one. The pier is open 24/7 and by definition these comparatively rare accidents do not occur during peak hours. Their common ones are cliff rescues (weekly, as tourists go off the cliffs often) and surf/beach rescues (daily, between tourists who don't know better and locals who push it). There is SCUBA gear at the pier for the maintenance people but it's not left set up for emergency work. The lifeguard HQ is near the base of the pier and they can launch boats, etc. quickly (and do, often) but the sudden call for SCUBA is very rare (twice in three years) compared to the common calls for surf rescue.

The county is poor enough that they can't afford to put AEDs in public buildings. The training cost is not nominal, even if the gear itself is only $500 or so, there are certifications required which have to be paid for at overtime wages.

It is grisly to admit that people die because we don't spend to choose the money, but this is the default in the health care system every day. The county does not have its own helicopter, and all weather landing at the main hospital (itself a feeder for the regional trauma center) was only recently established.

Personally, I'd choose to spend the money -- but at what point are we trading lives for lives? The rare hazards draw everyone's attention, but the common hazards are the ones that kill. The bathtub, the automobile and the cheeseburger are the great killers in America.
bradhicks
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
Gahh. That first one is a pet peeve of mine. It would cost less than $10 per bathroom in America to put a grab rail in the tub. We could do better than that, but you can't beat the cost/performance ratio of the grab rail. Adding that to the national building code would cost basically nothing, and would save more lives than all the rules in the national electrical code put together. Landlords and homeowners spend more than $10 getting their place ready to sell or to rent, so I can't see any reason why every community in America doesn't put it in their residency permit. The politician or commentator who cuts through the inertia to make this one tiny change will have saved more lives than Sully Sullenberger did. But they won't give him a ticker-tape parade.
hick0ry
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
The first story makes me wonder just how expensive some high-tension wire strung up around grill height to stop a car from going off the pier could possible cost. An ounce of prevention and all....
roninspoon
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
While reading this I was caught wondering if maybe this is the first big profile, solid return on all the investment in security and preparedness development the nation, and NYC in particular, have been working on for the last 7.5 years.
feedle
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
Amen, brother.
lucretiasheart
Jan. 19th, 2009 06:32 am (UTC)
"If we believe that survival during a disaster is "miraculous"? If we believe that it is entirely up to God who lives or who dies when something goes wrong? Then far too many of us will leave it up to God to save people."

It is my fondest desire to have your form of sanity become a virus that people catch so they can catch a clue. Fantasy? Yes. But I can't help wishing...
ponsdorf
Jan. 19th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Nice essay, far better than your opening paragraphs would lead one to believe.

However, I personally care little if a propitious confluence of events is called a miracle, or good luck, or whatever.

The only really offensive element is when someone tries to give primary credit directly to some deity who otherwise seems uninvolved. Cherrypicking might be the word? I can't recollect ever hearing the word 'miracle' used to describe a plane crash where all aboard were killed, for instance.

inquisitiveravn
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
In the discussions at another blog, some people have speculated that the reason this emergency landing seems so miraculous is that we in the US have become accustomed to mediocrity. What we have here is the reason that "elitism" is a good thing.
madfilkentist
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
Good article; I might have a nitpick or two, but I'll skip them. Sullenberger deserves lots of recognition, but "miracle" is a shorter word, so it was used in more headlines.
koogrr
Jan. 19th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Agreed, I dislike when someone univolved misappropriates the effort of others to some other entity. It sucks at work when a City gives my boss an award for a job well done, and all my boss did was tell me I was over budget when I was doing the work, and it sucks in this case too.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
Brad - "the flight attendants managed to keep things calm and orderly while they and the passengers evacuated a passenger with two broken legs".

Given the amount of evac training the flight attendants had, plus the random luck of the draw that puts muscular guys onto planes at times, that evacuation is completely do-able given a pilot that can give you a reasonably intact plane to evacuate from.

Do a 2-person "chair lift" and sidle down the aisle until you reach the exit doors - preferable the front door - and hand off to people outside. In either case, the injured person and the rescuers are the last ones out.

Discussing the incident with a fellow ski patroller, our conclusion was that the person with the broken legs probably wrapped his/her feet around the seat legs "for bracing" and snapped the tibias on impact. Safest spot for your feet in an impact is flat on the floor.
satyrblade
Jan. 21st, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
Yep.

And that, if nothing else, is why treating "human resources" like blotches on a "bottom line" that would seem more "profitable" if they were paid a little less, or if there were fewer of them to be paid at all, is a Really Bad Idea that needs to be purged forever from our corporate boardrooms.

Because sometimes - and you'll never know just when - you will need people in place who really know about and really care about their jobs.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 21st, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
I thought this sounded familiar
When Air France 358 crashed in 2005, the Daily Show had a bit on it where Jon Stewart has a similar rant.

http://video.aol.com/video-detail/the-daily-show-miracle-by-the-highway/769733232
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

November 2012
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner