The following is a transcript of an email our CEO Christine Barney sent to the entire firm last night after a trip to New York City.
Today, rbb vice president Jeanine Karp told me about a new airline feature coming out where you could choose your seat by looking at profiles of fellow airplane travelers. Sort of like Match.com in the air so you could avoid the chatty cathy if you like. But if you had a choice, would you sit next to a survivor of the U.S. Airways Miracle on the Hudson airplane crash? Is that good or bad luck?
Tonight I had no choice.
As the plane hit turbulence, several people in coach got nervous. The man in the window seat said he wasn’t worried. At first, I wasn’t paying attention as he engaged in conversation with younger man next to him. Then clearly I heard him tell the tale of how he saw the flock of geese and then six minutes after takeoff the flight attendants told everyone to prepare for a water landing.
With little emotion, as if he was telling someone else’s tale, he described the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 – bending down to brace for impact, the orderly exit. How his phone rang as he was standing on the wing, seemingly so normal. He said every year on January 15 he has a celebration. Then he opened his iPad and matter-of-factly told us about how this year on January 15, the airline brought the survivors to the museum where the plane sits in North Carolina. The passengers took their original seats and had their pictures taken. He said the seats were covered with mold. The plane was cracked and broken, yet in his picture he is smiling. Happy to be alive I imagine. He shared dozens of photos of the event and plane, talked about how the plane didn’t sink and said he believed it could never happen again. It really was a miracle.
When we landed everyone applauded. As he left the plane, pleasantries were exchanged – nice talking to you and all that. I noticed a Fire Department of NY 9/11 memorial bracelet on his wrist. I wondered what other stories he had to tell. I watched him walk away among and blend in with the other passengers in the terminal. He wore a pinstripe business suit, was above average height, ordinary in appearance – someone you would pass and not really notice. He never gave his name.
P.S. I arrived late at my hotel. It was raining. The desk clerk said, “How are you?” and I said, “Great.” She smiled and said everyone else checking in tonight has complained about the rainy weather, the traffic, the long day. I said, “I have nothing to complain about” and I meant it. Someone else’s story plays in my mind, a reminder that how we choose to deal with life’s challenges is up to us. Tomorrow is another day. Thank God.
See you all on Friday,