The high and the mighty

“The age of miracles hasn’t passed.”

— songwriter Ira Gershwin

Believe in a higher power or not, but more than good luck had to be with US Airways Flight 1549 when it ditched in the Hudson River on Thursday and 155 passengers and crew escaped unscathed. They cheated death — not many of us can say that, or would want to.

Some are now hoping that this amazing story is a sign that 2009 will see a better destiny than what continues to be in the forecast: more chilling than the Hudson’s water temperature.

The heroism displayed by pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, who did everything right, and the first responders — civilian and uniformed — takes your breath away. Sully and his family — as well as his crew — have been invited to President-elect Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday. Obama may want to keep this guy around his inner circle for a while: talk about a good luck charm.

Consider that the evacuation took 90 seconds to get 155 passengers and crew to safety before hypothermia and a watery death called. Itwas nothing short of spectacular. Talk about your New York minute. Now some first responders said it showed New Yorkers at their finest. Fair enough — but it’s more like Americans at their best: inspirational and self-sacrificing.

Courage on display the American way. Heroes without names and without the need for recognition for what they said was their job — or their instinct to save others. There’s a heapin’-helpin’ of some welcome humility that’s been missing — or under-reported — from the American scene for a while.

Flight 1549’s dramatic story happened on the same day George W. Bush gave his farewell (and good riddance) address to the nation. Poor George couldn’t even get the best headline his last time around. That’s because a great American story dwarfed a great American tragedy. Good news for a change.

Obama hits the ground running Tuesday with the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” to set the tone of his presidency. Although he had absolutely nothing to do with it, like all politicians he’ll use it as a metaphor for this and a that.

He, like others who use the uplifting story of Flight 1549 for inspiration, will call it a miracle. Or, better still, say it was miraculous. People who believe in miracles are often ridiculed as being zealots. Even though the word miracle is often tossed about to describe sports teams that defy the odds and win the World Series or the Super Bowl. Minor miracles, indeed.

Where does this one rank? Pretty high up there when you consider the lives that were spared.

God only knows what else it could’ve been.

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