There are about as many different definitions of a hero as there are heroes. And, contrary to what some might say, our world is full of heroes. But a hero is not necessarily someone who does something glorious or especially courageous. For me, a hero is someone who fulfills his or her task faithfully and with dignity. A hero is willing to take full responsibility. A hero is also someone who acts with grace under pressure. With all the time in the world, anyone could perform the hero’s task; but the hero is able to perform under the most difficult of circumstances. Finally, and most important, the hero puts the well-being of other before himself or herself. Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, meets all the criteria for being a modern-day hero.
First of all, Captain Sullenberger completed his task faithfully and completely. As he said at his welcome home on Saturday, “I did what I was trained to do.” While parts of this statement is a result of the Captain’s humility, it is also very true: he and all the other members of the flight crew had been trained for years for just such a situation. As we all know, must flights go quite uneventfully. But this flight was the one time he needed every bit of the hours of training and years of experience. And they all paid off. Captain Sullenberger did everything he was expected to do and needed to do. As a result, all 155 people on the jet were brought home safely.
Captain Sullenberger also performed with grace under pressure. Imagine all the fear and panic that must have been flooding him when he lost power in both engines. It is understandable if he had lost his cool or acted impulsively. But, instead, he did everything exactly right. All the pilot’s who commented on the safe emergency landing afterward kept saying how the landing was a textbook landing: it was as close as anything in this world can come to being...
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