I think one would have to be a heartless rock not to be a little touched by this story about a couple of koalas who survived the Australian bushfires.
The Reuters caption for this photo: A koala named Bob (top), rescued from last week's deadly bushfires, puts his paw around new friend and fellow fire survivor Sam as she recovers from her burns at a wildlife centre near Melbourne Feb. 11, 2009.
A coworker of a friend of a friend was on US Airways flight 1549, and he sent this email and photo to his coworkers in response to many of them asking to hear what happened that afternoon. It's a pretty amazing story.
I realize many folks have expressed an interest in hearing (1st hand) the full details of flight 1549...
But, before I go into that, let me begin by saying THANK YOU! I can't thank everyone enough for all the support, emails, text messages, and voice-mails I've received. This event has made me extremely proud to be an Accenture employee and has made me realize how blessed I am to have such a great network of colleagues and friends to lean on.
I flew up to New York late Wednesday night for a quick client meeting on Thursday morning. I had booked a 5PM return, but since we wrapped up around noon, I decided to head to the airport early and jump on the earlier flight (flight 1549).
Everything was normal on takeoff... We lifted off under full throttle and after a minute or so, the pilot throttled back and continued climbing. It was at least 2-3 minutes more before we heard a loud crash that shook the cabin. At this point, it sounded like the captain quickly backed off on the throttle and leveled the plane. We made a few turns, but seemed to be flying level and straight. Although, initially, there was a gasp, the sudden quiet brought about a sense of relief across all of us... We were still flying, and it seemed like we would be going back to the airport. However, at that time, we started to smell some smoke in the cabin (to me, like an electrical burnt smell). While concerning, I still felt like things were alright because we seemed to be flying ok.
We continued to cruise, what seemed to be level for the next several minutes. It was clear we were following the Hudson River, but I really had no idea both of our engines were completely out.
Then came the announcement... "BRACE FOR IMPACT"... It was a very calm voice and in the same demeanor as you routinely here the Captain say, "Flight Attendants Prepare the Cabin for Arrival".
In my mind the first thought was, "You've got to be kidding me, right?" Then it sunk in... We were going down, and we were going to do it in the river. The next thing that went through my head was a quick prayer... "Dear Lord, please help us through this... I could really use You right now".
The flight attendants were giving quick instructions... Head between your knees, grab your ankles. Then they started to chant, "Tuck and Brace, Tuck and Brace". The plane appeared to be descending normally, maybe even slower than a normal landing.
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and powered it up... Maybe I'd have a chance to call my wife and tell her that I love her and to make sure she tells my 2 year old son that I Love him every day. The phone started to come up, but I never did get any bars to make that call.
They say your life flashes before your eyes in the final moments... It didn't for me. I was focused on how my wife would manage, how I'd never get to see my son grow up. I was also very glad I opted for the "7X my salary" on the life insurance.
Still looking for bars on my cell, I could tell, we were really close to the water. I did what the flight attendants said and quickly 'tucked & braced', holding on tight... Then we hit the water. It was pretty bumpy and it felt like we took a hard left turn in the water, but we came to a stop. I was expecting the worst... Maybe the plane would flip... Maybe it would break apart and flood quickly. It didn't.
I was sitting in the bulk head row just behind first class (seat 4D). As we stopped, the Captain announced quickly, "Abandon Plane, Abandon Plane!" Within seconds, the stewardess in the front was popping the doors open and we were sliding out to safety. I went out the front right door which turned out to be probably the best option as only the front doors had inflatable rafts that deployed.
As I got to the end of the raft, I looked towards both shore-lines... My thought was if the raft was too full, could I swim it? There wasn't a chance, it was approximately 1/2 mile in each direction and you could tell the water was "Titanic-style" cold. At this point, people were pouring out of the plane onto the wings and it was a great feeling to know we were all getting out. Another quick look at the shorelines, and I realized there was a ferry approaching fast... In fact, there were 4 ferries and they all arrived simultaneously.
Once everyone from our raft was on board, the Ferry quickly made tracks for the Manhattan shoreline and the ferry terminal. It wasn't more than a 2-3 minute ride before we docked and all headed into the terminal.
They used the terminal as a holding area in order to establish counts of us all. Luckily, I had already made several calls to my wife, and was now focused on reaching out to a wider group of folks to let them know I was fine. I quickly received a voice mail from Wayne Busch trying to find out if I was on the plane. After returning his call, I was able to provide him with the details and asked him to contact the Employee Assistance hotline.
The Employee Assistance Program was truly a 'God-send'. They immediately contacted my wife, keeping her up-to-date. They also purchased a plane ticket for her so she could fly up to NY that evening to be with me. They arranged for a car service to come down and retrieve me from the docks, took care of booking me a hotel room and handled the travel arrangements for my return flight on Friday.
Wayne Busch took charge of the car service and came down to the pier to take care of me. The whole area was blocked off by firemen and police, so I figured there was no way for him to get in... Sure enough, he slipped by wearing his long overcoat, looking very much like many of the detectives on the scene. After a few more minutes, I ditched my American Red Cross blanket, and still wearing my suit, I slipped out with Wayne the same way he came in. I couldn't wait to be back somewhere warm, and somewhere I could get away from the chaos of the day.
Back at the Hotel, there was food in the room waiting on me (thanks Dan Gietl!). I had also mentioned that I needed a phone charger and there were two brand new chargers ready to top off my phone. On another table there was a full set of toiletries. A few minutes later a bell man arrived with a wardrobe of clothes in my size from Lord and Taylor. It turns out, my wife had provided my sizes to the employee assistance group and they took care of the rest.
I didn't have much time before I jumped in the car service and headed to the airport to meet my wife. Seeing her come down the stairs to baggage claim was about the greatest thing in the whole world. The crash was quite surreal and left me feeling with a sense of, "Am I really alive, or did I really go down with the plane and I'm just dreaming all of this." When she came through security and was finally in my arms, I knew it wasn't a dream and that everything was truly ok.
I made it back to Charlotte Friday afternoon... We got home just before 4PM and rushed over to pick up my son from the neighbors. The tears were unstoppable as I thought about how lucky I was to hold him in my arms again.
An event like this really puts into perspective how important your family is and how easy it is to take them for granted. As consultants we work many hours and I find that when I'm home, I just want to relax and unwind. It has only been a few weeks, but I believe I've experienced a fundamental shift in that regard. The time I spend with my family has become real quality time and every moment is cherished.
I'd like to close this with a few thank you's to some amazing folks within the Firm. First, Wayne, you are the man! I can't imagine how much more I could have taken being stuck in the ferry terminal area. It was also great just having a beer with you and putting the day behind me. Second, I can't say enough about the support I received from Dan Gietl. He jumped into action and made an attempt at retrieving me from the docks. At the Hotel, he made sure my wife and I had everything we needed (as well as a few things beyond what we needed). Most importantly, he made sure we were comfortable and convinced me that I should take some down time to spend with Family (I'm so glad I took your advice!). I want to thank Cyndy Fremaux who led up the incident from the Global Asset Protection group. I really feel you provided amazing support and in true Accenture fashion well beyond my expectations. Lastly, thank you Mary Birks who immediately contacted my wife, and with repeated phone calls, helped to facilitate her flight, as well as coordinated with other groups in helping to insure I had all I needed. According to my wife, Mary provided the support she needed for her as well, lending an invaluable "virtual" shoulder to cry on.
Thank YOU all...