I was at the gym and heard a woman telling another that she was late because she could not stop watching the plane crash on TV. I interrupted them. I had not heard about today’s crash. When I heard that a plane had gone into the icy Hudson I felt such grief.
It is a memory. I lived in Washington DC when Air Florida crashed on take-off from National Airport and clipped the bridge before it hit the water taking cars into the freezing river along with the passengers on the plane.
Many of us watched the TV news and the footage over and over and over. The TV crews were right there and you could see cars on the bridge. People looked for the color and make of their loved ones cars. It was rush hour and people were late getting home from work. Were they on the bridge?
But the other piece of TV news film I saw hundreds of times in that week was the “rescue” of Patricia Triado by Lenny Skutnick. I will always know their names. A rescue plane was trying to get her out of the water—the Potomac River—but in the cold and hypothermia she could not hold onto the life ring and kept slipping and slipping…over and over we watch this frozen terrorized woman try to hold and then slip away.
What the film catches—almost in the background is a man walking toward the crash...one of the many bystanders. But this man is walking toward the river bank and we can see him as he sees Patricia Triado slip again back into the freezing water and the incredible thing is that there is no pause, no hesitation, no calculation. This man moving toward the river sees (we see him seeing) and he begins to run to the water and jumps in and begins to go to her. He gets her and is trying to get to shore…now he is quickly freezing and he is able to get them in reach of other rescuers who have been on the shore the whole time watching.
Lenny Skutnik never hesitated. He saw and he moved into the water.
Later we learned that Patricia Triado lost her husband and baby in that crash.
Would she be glad she was rescued? Would she always wish she had fallen from the ring and died with her family?
How do we ever know what is good and right?
But the image of Lenny Skutnick simply moving toward her without thought stays with me.