Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Did 'Southerness' save lives on Sully's plane?

The Charlotte Observer has an interesting piece about Flight 1549, the plane that skidded into the Hudson River but was originally bound for the Queen City.

Apparently passengers on board recall a sense of calm during the terrifying moments. The reason? The fact that a bunch (100 of the 150 or so) of people on the plane were from the South.

"While there were sporadic acts of ugliness in the chaos after the splashdown - at least two passengers said their seat-cushion floatation devices were snatched by others - an inbred politeness seemed to be at work, says William Prochnau, author of 'Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549.'

" 'There's something to that,' says Prochnau, who assembled the stories of 118 of the 150 passengers for the book co-written by his wife, Laura Parker. Prochnau said in researching the book, they learned that whenever someone felt a rising sense of panic, others in the group settled them genteelly and guided them through the ordeal. About 100 of the passengers were from the South," says the Observer.

Even when the ferries pulled up to the bobbing fuselage to pluck passengers from wings and rafts, there was a cry of "women and children first," a gesture some female passengers later considered an arcane courtesy, Prochnau says.

"Certainly children first and those who needed assistance," Theresa Leahy, a Bank of America executive aboard the flight, says in the book.

"I appreciate the humanity that's happening there, that people are putting someone else ahead of themselves. But in an evacuation situation where time could be lost or other things could happen? ... You have to do the thing that's most efficient."

Other tales in the book include how the cabin filled with a putrid smell of burned geese and fuel after the impact and how a cacophony of prayers broke out - Christian, Muslim, Jewish - during the descent.

Mike Kollmansberger, an evangelical Christian from Lexington, S.C., says in the book he was certain they would all perish, but he was at peace: "I'm going to hit this water and go see the lord Jesus in 15 seconds."

Lori Lightner of Tega Cay, S.C., recalled thinking before the crash that her husband should collect double on the life insurance because she was on a work trip for Belk's. "Maybe it's a strange thing to do, thinking about your insurance when you are dying, but I'm a practical person."

What do you think? Is there something to this theory?


James C. said...

What can you say? Southerners get it done.

M. Lail said...

We rock, y'all!