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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 18, 2009


Safety and Miracles are No Accident

Surviving the plane crash (assuming you can call a successful "ditch" onto water a "crash") was less accident than most. In fact, one could argue that the Miracle on the Hudson was more of a response to training, design and planning than miracle in the end.

Here in the US, we have protective agencies designed to look after our well being and the well being of the American worker. The FAA and NTSB are two such agencies which looks after the former; and the pilot's labor union is one which looks after the latter.

The protections which led to the safe ditching of US Air flight 1549 was the direct result of what safety precautions put into place can do. It's why we haven't had a major airline death in over two years here in the US and why jet crashes here occur far, far less than anywhere else in the world. Similarly, the same protections fought for by labor unions have protected all American workers whether they happen to be in one of those unions or not.

But the protection doesn't stop there.

The response to the ditching from both sides of the Hudson River was instantaneous, as was the events which occurred on the jet itself. Passengers testified to television audiences around the world that it took about 90 seconds - that's one-and-a-half minutes - to get everyone off the plane.

And everyone of the 155 souls on board (150 passengers and five crew) did get off the plane. The training associated with the protections put into place are to thank for that.

We all make fun of that same old routine the flight attendants put us through as our airliner taxis to take off. That demonstration is a part of the training that added to the preparedness of the crew; their preparing of the passengers; and their ability to get everyone off the plane safely.

With the exception of some very cold and very wet passengers, the only major injury which occurred was two broken legs by one passenger.

Maybe the miracle was the planning itself.

Within what passengers called "seconds", NY Waterway, FDNY fireboats and other ferries were out by the plane ready to take survivors - all of them - to safety. And no less than three hospitals (two in New York and one in New Jersey) were put on notice ready for survivors. St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan's Greenwich Village area was one of them. For those of you who don't remember, that's where the survivors were brought from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and where vigils were held for those lost. The big treatment performed by their emergency room doctors was for hypothermia.

I wasn't in New York on this particular day as my real job brings me all over the metropolitan area. However, coming into New York City at least two days every week - and the road I travel once there - allows me to notice things most wouldn't. My route takes me from the Lincoln Tunnel down West 33rd Street. During drills - practice for whatever emergency the NYPD might need to respond to - dozens of police cruisers line up on my route in what appears to be a get-ready state. I've noticed those same exercises being performed in the Columbus Circle area at the gateway to Central Park.

More recently, I noticed a new training activity as well. On a day when the NYPD was lined up on 33rd Street, while on my way up West Street and then the Hudson River Parkway (which runs parallel and next to the Hudson River), I noticed barges spaced a mile or two up river from each other spanning the river width-wise. They were also staggered from east to west with the southernmost barges closer to Manhattan and the northernmost closer to New Jersey.

Then there are the visible activities. Anyone traveling the New York City Subway knows that there are many more police patrolling the platforms and cars.

All of these plans and activities are designed to keep us prepared and protected. 155 people don't survive the ditching in the Hudson without it and the American worker doesn't stand a chance without it either.

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg