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Miracle on the Hudson    by Survivors of Flight 1549, William Prochnau & Laura Parker order for
Miracle on the Hudson
by Survivors of Flight 1549
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Miracle on the Hudson by the Survivors of Flight 1549, William Prochnau and Laura Parker tells the 'Extraordinary Stories of Courage, Faith, and Determination' that turned what appeared to be yet another horrific airline tragedy into the inspirational story of the year.

The authors open with the 9-1-1 call that alerted the world to what was happening aboard US Airways Flight 1549 after it encountered a flock of Labrador geese. It reported an airplane on fire and going down (every flier's worst nightmare). It soon became clear that the veteran 'pilot was maneuvering for an attempted landing in the Hudson River' to avoid crashing into 'the most densely populated island in the world.' Captain Chesley Sullenberger's landing was 'almost picture-perfect'.

The authors describe the seemingly miraculous landing and rescue of all the passengers in the context of January 2009, when the American bank on Main Street 'had gone to Las Vegas with the people's money and lost big', leaving the country more than ready for a feel-good story like this one, particularly in a location within sight of the 9/11 tragedy.

William Prochnau and Laura Parker introduce readers to individual passengers - such as software developer Jay McDonald who had already survived brain-tumor surgery, nervous flier Tracey Wolsko who helped others, and eighty-five year old Lucille Palmer - telling many individual stories of the crash and rescue in some detail and portraying for readers 'one of the few times that reality made better TV than Reality TV.'

They also share lessons learned from this and other accidents, such as that 'Passengers escaping aircraft follow the leader' (so what the first ones out do really matters - in this case some jumped into the water, risking hypothermia) and that, under such extreme stress, people's memories of what happened are erratic and often contradictory. And they talk about how passengers dealt with air travel in the aftermath.

Miracle on the Hudson tells an absorbing story of an event that captured all our imaginations. It's a good read, though perhaps one to avoid while, or just before, flying.

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