Why Chesney Sullenberger Matters

Despite an avalanche of media attention, one person I have not spoken or written about it Chesney “Sully” Sullenberger.

Every time I try to condense my thoughts, I end up crying.

While the story of how he and his crew safely landed a plane in the Hudson River has been told over and over, it was an appearance on 60 Minutes that had me fully grasping his significance.

I had not watched 60 Minutes in years, but he was the feature story. I had to watch. Out of all of his appearances, this one was the most meaningful. He was asked why people were so drawn to this story.

His response was simple, truthful, and important.

“People need to feel good again. They need to feel a sense of hope.”

Times are tough. People are starving for good news. They do not need a ten course meal of it. They will settle for bread crumbs.

Throughout history, during tough times, various events have lifted us up.

Sometimes it is sports.

After 9/11, the New York Giants won with courage. So did the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina.

The 1980 Men’s Olympic Hockey team beat the Russians but it was not about hockey. It was about that America was truly in a malaise. Misery was widespread. People were doubting if America itself had no longer possessed the will to be the best. We were on the decline.

I remember being in New York several years ago when the city was really down. Then all of a sudden, baseball player David “Boomer” Wells did what only 16 pitchers have ever done in the Major Leagues. He pitched a perfect game.

David Wells was an overweight drinker and brawler. Yet as the New York Post pointed out, at any given moment, even a very imperfect man for a moment can be perfect.

I was in the city when this happened. New Yorkers of all stripes hugged and high-fived each other. They also did it when troubled Dwight “Doc” Gooden pitched his no-hitter.

I do not even like baseball. I certainly do not root for the Yankees. Yet the fact that people had their spirists lifted by what some people consider to be an insignificant event does not minimize that they felt better.

Yet sports events do not ever compare to real life. The most honorable thing a person can do is save a life. Saving one life is saving the world.

Sully Sullenberger saved 150 people. More importantly, not one person died. Not one.

When 60 minutes showed Sully reuniting with the passengers, that was overwhelming. Yet he also met their families. One woman thanked him for being the reason she was not a widow. Children thanked him for saving their parents.

Somehow he kept his composure. That steely eyed resolve was what turned a crisis that lasted less than five minutes from turning into a catastrophe.

There would be tragedy in the coming days. Yet not on the day Sully flew.

Several days later there was a plane crash in Buffalo. There were plenty of deaths. Even today we had two tragic plane crashes on the same day, spreading pain all the way from Montana to Tokyo. This only magnifies the need to hang onto Sully Sullenberger.

The bad news has got to stop, or at least slow down. The bleeding has got to stop. We desperately need to feel good again. We need to feel a sense of hope. We need good things to happen. The bad stuff will never stop, but at least let it take a break.

I remember a pair of mining incidents in the recent past. One took place in Pennsylvania. Nine miners that everybody thought were dead somehow survived. When the governor of Pennsylvania came on television, his words were magic.

“All nine are alive.”

I remember pumping my fists in the air, thinking that on this day, people would not be taken from us.

I just wish that the miners in West Virginia had the same luck.

Thirteen of them were trapped, and thought dead. Had the story ended there, it would have been awful, but what occurred next made matters far worse.

A report came out that said all but one of them had survived. One death was a tragedy, but 12 out of 13 alive was something. I pumped my fists again, and the families hugged each other.

The report was wrong. The numbers were backwards. All but one of them had died. One had survived. He was coughing badly, and may never be the same.

The families were devastated, and television viewers were crushed.

I have had it with bad news. I understand that good times cannot last forever, but bad times cannot and must not last forever either. In 2009, financial markets violently crashed. Foreign policy crises exploded throughout the globe. Unemployment reached levels not seen in a quarter of a century.

Yet for a few brief moments, people reaffirmed that this nation is made up of ordinary individuals who reach levels of greatness by just doing what they do.

For once, the media did not, and I hate to use this word, “sully” this man. No stories came out about him being an alcoholic, wife beater, or anything else that would tarnish this story.

I don’t care if stuff like that does come out. Nothing will ever minimize his heroic deeds.

Yet it is still refreshing to see that he truly does seem to be a person we can look up to. His wife loves him. So do his friends. So does his crew. He might be the real deal.

An angel named Sully Sullenberger took an entire nation on his wings. As his plane was crashing, in the coming days our spirits were soaring.

150 people may have worries about America, but they have a sense of perspective we will hopefully never see.

I personally had a health scare a couple of weeks ago. My appreciation for life is far greater than it was before my scare. I am fine now, and grateful.

I also know that most of what we deal with in life does not matter.

Life and death matters.

150 people are alive today because of one man. If these 150 people spread what they were given, the whole world truly could become a better place.

If evil can be spread, it should not be so farfetched to think that good cannot be an equally powerful wildfire.

We have our divisions with daily events, but when the chips are truly down, Americans truly do come together. We are better people than we give each other credit for.

We all have some Sully Sullenberger inside of us.

Sometimes it just takes the real Sully Sullenberger to remind us of this.

When we dig down deep, some special things happen.

Thank God for Chesney Sullenberger.

Get some rest Sully. Go play a round of golf or enjoy a good steak.

We will take it from here. You have earned some peace and quiet.

May good news come to all of us in abundance.

When it does come, let’s be ready with appreciation and gratitude.

For those who truly are ready, don’t wait. Make it happen.

We need good news. We need hope. We need to believe again.

God bless us all.


4 Responses to “Why Chesney Sullenberger Matters”

  1. Micky 2 says:

    “150 people are alive today because of one man. If these 150 people spread what they were given, the whole world truly could become a better place.”

    Unfortunatley some of them are suing the airline.

    Thanks Sully.

  2. Dav Lev says:

    I believe there is a G-d, even though I cannot define what G-d is, nor do I believe anyone else can.

    My G-d has no beginning and no end. My G-d is a part of the universe, every part of it, but cannot be seen and thus not painted.

    However, I am open to the reality that there are over 20,000 different religions, each having a somewhat different version of exactly what
    G-d is or is not.

    Some people believe we are born to suffer, some believe in reincarnation.
    I don’t.

    That’s fine with me. However, I don’t want anyone to be persecuted and prosecuted
    because THEIR G-d is somehow different.

    At work, too many of us separated ourselves from one another based
    on not only our race, but our definition of G-d. This wasn’t always apparent, but when someone retired or got a promotion, or simply left
    the employ, and we had a dinner ( or luncheon ), I always noticed how
    people really felt about one another, by their seating patterns..Jews here, Christians there (Catholics vs Protestants) vs Muslims, vs blacks, vs
    Hispanics, vs Asians, vs (the pregressively decreasing whites).
    There were a handfull of American indians.

    Few Jews were visably Jewish, but somehow they were still known
    for their faith..no matter how deep or observant or lack thereof.

    My G-d works in strange ways. While Eric writes about this ( obvious )
    hero, within a few weeks, there was another plane crash if I recall,
    over Buffalo, New York. One of the firemen assigned the rescue (no one
    survived) cried on public TV when describing what he saw in the plane.

    Just the other day, a plane full of children, averaging about 7 years of age,
    crashed in Montana. No one survived. The plane hit a cemetary near the
    airport..deep into the ground. Nothing remaining was identifiable.

    In 911, over 3,000 people were killed within minutes thanks to
    19 murderers who played G-d. This was their way of getting
    back at the US for having troops in Saudi Arabia, and buying Arab
    oil from that country, as well as other long standing hatreds of US.

    One of their minor gripes was the US support for the “Jew”, “Zionist” state
    of Israel. The audacity of a country aiding a member nation of the UN, created by the UN. and just wanting to be left alone, to live in peace, its’ population wanting no more than just raising families, working, making this world a better place to live, and adhering to our G-ds requirement
    to shoulder the responsibility of being “The chosen people”, chosen meaning we cannot shirk that responsibility. A people punished in biblical days for turning away from their G-d, and, in my opinion, in post biblical days for not having a piece of land of their own.

    Yes, G-d works in strange ways, as my many Christian friends tell me.

    But then again, some people don’t believe in the Divine. They prefer
    to think we came from a 28 inch animal, that lived 90 million years ago
    and had “fuzz”, like feathers.

    Or maybe we came from jelly fish?

    I prefer the text in Genesis. But that’s my choice, the choice that
    my G-d gave me.

  3. Laree says:

    Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban.


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