Eyewitness to the miracle on the Hudson

I received an email from my friend Stan today with the following account of the USAirways plane that crash landed on the Hudson River.

Please note as you read this story the number of people who came to the aid to the passengers and to whom they all owe a debt of gratitude.

This American Airlines Pilot was deadheading on flight 1549. Here is her story from a slightly different perspective.

 The following is an exclusive account for our members from one of our pilots who was onboard US Airways Flight 1549 when the pilots made a successful emergency ditching into New York’s Hudson River. First Officer Susan O’Donnell is a LGA-based 767 pilot. She resides with her family in Winnsboro, South Carolina.  Susan is a former Navy pilot, hired at AA in February 1990. She has flown the 727, F100, A300 and now the 767.

The following is her account of the flight, the rescue and recovery response, as well as the support she experienced afterward. This is intended to give each of you a unique insight into the event. We also hope that the crew’s tremendous effort to take care of each other and the nearly instantaneous support of USAPA and APA responders become “takeaways” for our pilots to use when faced with an emergency.

I was a jumpseat rider seated in First Class on Flight 1549 from LGA to CLT, which successfully ditched in the Hudson River. I’ve been asked to share a few of my experiences on that day. Although it was a stressful incident, the
successful outcome and the assistance and support I received afterwards have been truly humbling and inspirational.

After introducing myself to and being welcomed aboard by Captain Sullenberger and FO Skiles, I was offered seat 3D, an aisle seat in the last row of First Class. I was in my uniform. Another jumpseat rider took a seat in row 6. These were the last empty seats on the airplane. I wasn’t paying much attention to the flight until, climbing out, there were several loud thumps occurring roughly simultaneously along both sides of the aircraft. “Bird strikes,” I thought. A few seconds later, there was a bit of smoke and the stench of burning bird that seemed to confirm my guess. There was a turn to the left, and I assumed we were returning to LGA.

The passengers were concerned but calm. I couldn’t see any part of the aircraft out the window from my aisle seat. Although I didn’t hear much that sounded encouraging from the engines, I expected we would have at least partial thrust with which to limp back to LGA. We rolled out of the turn, and I could tell we were not maintaining altitude. Then we heard the PA: “This is the Captain. Brace for impact.”

Obviously we weren’t returning to LGA, and I could see enough out the window to realize we’d be landing in the river. The flight attendants began shouting their “brace” litanies and kept it up until touchdown. The descent seemed very
controlled, and the sink rate reasonably low. I believed the impact would be violent but survivable, although I did consider the alternative. The passengers remained calm and almost completely quiet. As we approached the water, I braced by folding my arms against the seat back in front of me, then putting my head against my arms. There was a brief hard jolt, a rapid decel and we were stopped.  It was much milder than I had anticipated. If the jolt had been turbulence, I would have described it as moderate. Thinking about it later on, I realized it was no worse than a carrier landing.

After landing, the attitude of the aircraft was slightly nose high, but not far off a normal parked attitude, and there was no obvious damage to the cabin or water intrusion where I was. No one was hurt or panicked. We all stood up. I
could hear the doors open and the sound of slide inflation. There was a verbalcommand “Evacuate;” people were already moving towards the doors. I exited through the forward right door and entered the raft. The evacuation up front was orderly and swift, and we were not in the water long before being picked up by various boats, which were extremely quick to the scene. Many passengers were standing on the wing, going from feet dry to nearly waist deep as the rescue progressed. They were of course the first to be picked up by the arriving boats. I was picked up by a large ferry boat, climbing a ladder hanging from the bow.  It didn’t take long to get all passengers into the boats and to the ferry terminals.

Once at the terminal, we were met by police, firemen, paramedics, FBI, Homeland Security, the Red Cross, Mayor Bloomberg, and more. Captain Sullenberger continued in a leadership role in the aftermath, talking with the passengers, assembling his crew and including myself and the other jumpseat rider as members of his crew. I was impressed to note that he had the aircraft logbook tucked under his arm. When the Captain asked me if I wanted to join the crew at the hotel, I told him I would really appreciate it as I had lost my wallet. He immediately pulled out his wallet and gave me $20. His concern for me when he had so much else to worry about was amazing.

The USAPA representative was on the scene very quickly, and again included the other jumpseat rider and myself with the rest of the crew. I didn’t see a flight attendant representative; USAPA took care of the FAs as well. The USAPArepresentative escorted the entire crew to the hospital (we rode in a NYFD fire truck), where we were joined by other USAPA reps and the USAPA lawyer, all of whom continued to consider me as one of the crew. At the hospital, I had finally called the APA “in case of accident” number on the back of my ID badge for APA. I had not initially thought of that as applying to my situation, as a jumpseater on another airline, but I called anyway. I spoke with APA LGA Vice Chairman Captain Glenn Schafer, who departed immediately to come assist me.

After a routine evaluation, they transported us by police car to a hotel, where rooms were waiting. The USAPA version of our Flight Assist was also there, and they spoke to me and offered me whatever assistance I needed, again as if I was one of their own. The USAPA reps also brought all of us some clothing and toiletries that they had purchased. Captain Schafer arrived at the hotel, bringing me some necessary items. He stayed overnight at the hotel, making
flight arrangements for me to go home the next day and escorting me to the airport. Captain Mark Cronin from the AA NY Flight Office met me at the departure gate, again offering assistance and support.

I am grateful for the many calls of concern and offers of help I have received, from fellow pilots, union representatives and the company, and I am grateful for and proud of the response and assistance of both USAPA and APA. I would hope that our union would treat another airline’s crewmember as kindly as I was treated. USAirways has also been superb, treating me as if I was a paying passenger.

I am also thankful for the professionalism and capabilities of Captain Sullenberger, FO Skiles and FAs Dent, Dail and Welsh.  They certainly did our profession proud, and they saved my life

The amazing nature of this event continues to amaze me. Gratitude seems to be the most logical response.

RandomKid December 2007 Newsletter

RandomKid is an organization that my daughter has been involved in for about a year. I wrote about the organization here.   It is a unique organization because it is focused on kid initiated, kid directed projects.  Check out the project page of their website.  These aren't adult projects where kids can participate. These are projects that kids have thought up, and through the support of their parents, families, friends and RandomKid, are either making a difference or a looking for the funding to start.

Here is their latest newsletter. I post it to bring encouragement and opportunity. Share it with kids that you know. Maybe one of them has a project idea that RandomKid can help them start.

RandomKid NewsletterRk_logo
National Task Force Visits the Gulf

Watch NBC Nightly News This Sunday, December 23*for a Special Report on RandomKid's Water Project. 

December 2007

I’m really excited for you to read what we have to share with you in this newsletter. RandomKid’s National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf, a group of 10 kids from around the country, had the opportunity to visit the largest chapter of Habitat for Humanity, tour and volunteer in the gulf, thanks in large part to a grant from Target Corporation and a kind invitation from the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  Our mission was to witness the progress that’s being made, the work that still needs to be done, and report back to kids across the USA to encourage continued support.

There are still nearly 60,000 people living in FEMA trailers over two years after Hurricane Katrina.  Faith has helped them all get through a tough time. It is a message we hear from everyone over and over again. They also are being helped by Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and the countless volunteers that go down there to rebuild homes. But none of this can happen without money. We can’t allow ourselves to be tired of the story because it’s old news and we want to move on to something new. We have to commit to helping every last hurricane survivor back on their feet.  It is the patriotic thing to do, and our human responsibility to help people who can’t help themselves. We need to show them that the power of their faith can also be seen in each of us, their fellow Americans who care.

All but one of the articles here were written by the RandomKid Task Force kids.  One column was written by our newest Board Member, and dad of one of our Task Force members, Ed Brenegar.  Please take a moment to see the gulf from a kid’s point of view.  We hope you’ll help.

Happy Holidays!

~Talia Leman, 12-year-old CEO, RandomKid

“The Gulf trip was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life! I got to meet new people and help out in the Gulf.  After being there, I’ve come up with a new idea on how to children in that area.  I LOVE being a part of RandomKid!” –Task Force Member, 10-year-old Emma

Having Hope and Faith on the Gulf CoastRk_shelby_2
By Task Force Member Shelby of North Carolina

Nasheka Chatman and her three children met with the RandomKid Task Force on a warm Fall day in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Chatman has been living in a FEMA trailer with her three small children and her husband for over two years now. The FEMA trailer that the Chatman family is currently living in is 10 feet by 40 feet, or about the size of your garage.  They are very cramped and there is not a lot of privacy. When Nasheka was asked how she has gotten through everything over the past two years, she replied, "with prayer, lots of prayer." Chatman says she has had lots of support from family and friends. Of all the things that this family lost, what they miss most are family pictures. She wants other people to know that Habitat for Humanity was "sent by God. The people were sent by God." Nasheka's children, ages 4,6 and 7 have put lots of thought into what colors they will paint their new bedrooms.  The family is moving into their Habitat house on November 12th and they are going to celebrate by making a sign for the front yard that says, "Thank You Jesus for our new home." Chatman reminded us that, "People on the Gulf are doing okay. We still need you're help, but we are okay. People here are strong in their hearts." When asked what other Katrina victims should remember, she thought for a moment, then added, "Don't give up on your dreams [of getting out of a FEMA trailer and into a new home]."

“They will remember this trip for years to come.  So will I.   Nicholas is already brainstorming new ideas.  He can’t wait for the next conference call!” –Task Force Mom, Kelly

Leaving LouisianaRk_nicholas
By Task Force Member Nicholas of Massachusetts

As the jazz music dies; the scent of beignets disappears; the wrought iron architecture ends; and the skyline of the French Quarter blends in with the horizon, the memory of the destruction comes back to mind. The bus rattles and shakes along the highway. We pass abandoned homes and empty lots – painful reminders of the past. I can’t help but think of everything lost during the storm. There are so many still left with so little. It makes me feel like I need to do more. Money is really necessary to help others. I am reinvigorated. I am inspired to take up the task where I left off. I will once again look for new and creative ways to get others interested in the Gulf Coast disaster. So many have forgotten. But not me. I want to help the poor people of Mississippi and Louisiana. And I will.

Click here to DONATE  to RandomKid’s “Rebuild the Gulf Fund.”  100% of your donation will go to our “Rebuild the Gulf” program, 90% of which goes directly to building a Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi, MS.

“Being a RandomKid parent has been an amazing experience!  I feel blessed and renewed as I see our children...our FUTURE... at work, giving so selflessly of themselves and their time!  I feel like I’m along for the ride of a lifetime as I see what these children are able to accomplish through their hopes, dreams, and energies!”  -Task Force Mom, Eldonna

A "Taste" of the GulfRk_task_force_2
By Task Force Member Emma of Iowa

(Editor's Note:  These are reflections written after a day when the task force got to experience many of the wonderful, unique things about the Gulf  Much of their time was spent in the New Orleans area on this day, and Gulf Port / Biloxi the other two days.)

Our day started with a LONG bus ride!  During the ride we rode on the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain.  It was really scary because the bridge went on and on for miles over nothing but water!  It was a funny feeling!

When our ride was done we ate brunch at Court of the Two Sisters in New Orleans!  It was really good food, and they had a jazz trio playing that was fun to listen to.  I tried crawfish for the very first time (I don't think I'll try it again for awhile!), and I also tried grits (I'll pass on those next time too!).  But the omelets were super, and so were the desserts!

After brunch we went on a ferry ride across the Mississippi River.  It was really cool! Even cars could drive right onto the ferry so they could cross the river! That was a strange sight!

After the ride we went to the Swamp Fest at the Audubon Zoo.  It was neat seeing al those animals!  It's hard to believe that alligators can be so dangerous because they looked really lazy and didn't even move a muscle!

Next we went to Cafe du Monde (that's where the picture of the task force above was taken), and ate bengiets.  They tasted like funnel cakes at our State Fair, only better!  I ate three! We then had about an hour to walk around in the French Quarter and do things. It was really fun.  My mom and I had a street artist draw our caricature!  We look kinda funny in it...he gave us real big heads and big teeth!

Then we went to the "old" Brock Elementary in Slidell that had been destroyed by Katrina.  We interviewed the principal, Rose Smith.  The school was all boarded up, but they're working on the inside and hope to be in by next school year.

We then saw the current school the Brock students are in.  They all have double-wide trailers for their classrooms.  It was neat seeing all the things they've been through and knowing that they have never given up hope.  Their trailer classrooms were actually very, very nice and big.  It was a nice feeling to know the kids can have good classrooms until they get back in their real school.

At the end of the day we ate at the Southside Cafe.  It was really good food...I had fried oysters!  I like oysters anyway, and these were yummy!

After that we went back to our stadium and went to bed.  It was a good, busy, and tasty day!

“We are honored to be hosting these children here in the gulf. They have proven to be a driving force in bringing awareness to our gulf rebuilding efforts, and we hope that their reports from the gulf will inspire many more children around the country to continue to help rebuild the thousands of homes that were destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes.” ~Kent Adcock, Director of Business Development & Community Relations for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Carabiners:  A Kid’s Idea and a RandomKid “Micro Loan” are Catalyst to Gulf TripRkcarabiners
by Talia Leman, RandomKid CEO  and Task Force Member 

It all started with our carabiners. You know, those cool clips you can stick on your backpack, key chain, and just about anywhere else (They make GREAT GIFTS—HINT HINT!!   Click here to buy some!). Click here to read backstory on carabiners.

Kent Adcock with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of Habitat for Humanity received a carabiner at Habitat for Humanity’s “1000th Home Celebration.”  He thought they were pretty cool, and called us up to see if we’d partner with them to sell carabiners with their logo and our logo on them at a big event with professional golfers in November.   Next thing you know, he invited the task force to come!  But we still had a big hurdle:  How to pay for everyone to get there.  That’s where Target Corporation comes in.  Hooray for Target! They helped the entire task force come together in the gulf.  The Task Force has worked  together for over a year, and finally met in person for the first time.   We stayed in the Salvation Army’s VolunteerVillage in Biloxi, MS.  The Salvation Army ROCKS!  We met a really great kid named Conner there.  He and his family moved to Biloxi to help the Salvation Army after the 2005 hurricanes, and they’ve been serving volunteers in the MS Gulf Coast now for a year and a half.  I am happy to say that Conner is the newest member to our task force!

In Closing

by Anne Ginther, President of RandomKid

There are many more stories to tell.  "RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf" members met kids who had to swim through their house to get to safety, parents who lost everything.  Can you imagine having survived such a disaster and then living in temporary housing for over two years, knowing that there may be thousands ahead of you on the building list? 

GOAL:  Break ground on a  RandomKid / Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008 = $25,000 needed!

The children on the Task Force were so moved by what they saw, that they have decided to set a goal to raise enough money to break ground on a MS Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008.  These kids have already raised a lot of money with their entrepreunrial ideas.  They need to raise $25,000 more to be able to break ground on a house.  Please help these kids make their goal, and help a family into their home.

Please click here to donate online using any major credit card, or make out a check to

"RandomKid - Rebuild the Gulf",

and send it to: 


P.O. Box 2064

McKinney, TX 75070.

In the coming months we'll share more of stories, photos and video from the Task Force trip.  We'll also introduce you to the new things they are doing to help our fellow Americans in the gulf.

We thought we'd close with some favorite quotes from Task Force member Shelby:

*Be the CHANGE you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

*A big shot is a little shot that kept shooting.-Unknown

*You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however. -Richard Bach

Thank you for not only helping the gulf, but helping KIDS realize their power to help others.


The RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf:

Ellison, Tiron, Shelby, Tonisha, Sarah, Talia, Lanna, Emma, Tonisha, and Conner

Anne Ginther, RandomKid President

RandomKid Quick Links


Other RandomKid Projects

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The Kids on the Task Force

Join Mailing List

Comment: I written about RandomKid previously here .   You are going to hear more from me about RandomKid. I've just joined their board. I believe in their mission. I endorse their - our - mission because it is about the Kids and their ideas, and their leadership and their impact.   

Your financial support will help kids make difference.  I hope you'll consider making a donation.  You are not only investing in the future, but making a difference today.

Random Kids are Helping Habitat for Humanity Rebuild the Gulf

Just returned from three packed days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast engaged in gathering of kid social entrepreneurs from around the country - RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuilding the Gulf. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina two years ago, children everywhere were motivated to do something to help people.  In response to these kid social entrepreneurs, the organization RandomKid was formed by two moms - Anne Ginther of Dallas, Texas and Dana Leman of Des Moines, Iowa.  The purpose ofRkcarabinersfc RandomKid is to support the social entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts of kids.

Don't think kids can make a difference? Through the promotion of coin collection during Halloween, over $10 million was raised for Katrina relief . Other projects include a cool set of house-shaped carabinders to raise money to build Habitat house along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Check out these RandomKid projects. These are not kid's projects that RandomKid supports in a variety of ways.

Our gathering in Gulfport and Biloxi this past weekend coincided with the Jerry Kelly-Mickey BradleyJerry_kelly_with_randomkids_1 Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Last year, its first, they raise over $76,000, enough to build three Habitat homes.  Word was as we left the course Monday that they may go over $100,000 this year. Fantastic as the Mississippi Gulf Coast lost 65,000 homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Here's Jerry Kelly with some of the Task Force kids.

My purpose in writing about this trip is two fold.

First, to acquaint you with RandomKid. If you have children or know children who have ideas about how to help people, or simply the desire to help, let them register at the RandomKid website.  Is this an organization that is going to compete with your local community organizations? No. RandomKid can enhance your child's community service efforts by linking he or she to kids like them around the country. Kids need support and encouragement, as well as assistance in how to take their ideas and make them reality. Anne and Dana have proven to me that they understand what this means. It is about the kids and not simply about creating another activity organization for kids.  I have the highest respect for these two women who have done all of this as volunteers.

Secondly, it is to begin reacquaint many of you with the situation that exists along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Most of the debris is gone. The casinos the dot the shoreline along route 90 in Biloxi and Gulfport are back in operation. But to date, there are still thousands of families in FEMA trailers and who are awaiting money to rebuild. The subprime loan crisis cannot help but make it harder for people to rebuild their lost homes. All the more reason to get involved in some way to help rebuild the gulf.  They may not need you for clean-up and gutting of damaged dwellings, but they can use you to help build houses.

Right now, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the only non-profit agency building new houses.  I'll write more about this fine organization and their plans in the next couple of days.  I'll also post some Katrina pictures.  You can see some pictures I took two years ago here, here, here and here.

Last word ... leadership is about the difference we make. It isn't about the power we wield.  If you have the desire to make a difference, then coming down to serve along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is your ticket. If you want to know more, contact me. I'll be glad to help facilitate your finding the right place.

UPDATE: Just to put some context on this. Here are pictures I took on three different trips to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


First Presbyterian Church, Pascagoula October 2005   

Gautier Presbyterian Church October 2005  

Mississippi Gulf Coast October 2005

Mississippi Gulf Coast December 2005 

Bay St. Louis January 2007

I Hate Death, with a Passion

I hate death. 

I hate the waste of death. 

The loss of potential.
The loss of viability.
The loss of contribution.
The loss of connection.

I hate it.

It may be my Scottish ancestry that wants me to use everything to its potential.  That's why my car is 16 years old and has 315,000 miles on it, and is finally, finally on its last legs.

That's why I never ever believe that people are beyond changing.  Not in the sense that I wrote about in terms of a naive belief in change, that people can be talked into change.  No, just that when pushed to the wall, people will change.  Because if they don't they die.

I see it everywhere I turn. People and organizations unable to change, unable to live because they have no idea what their potential is.  They don' t see their potential because they are alone and isolated in the midst of the hundreds of thousands of people who are within two to three feet of them. That is the length of their arm, the length needed to reach out and type an email, make a phone call, or shake a hand.

I hate death because of the loss.

It is with this perspective in mind, one that I carry with me everyday, that I introduce a topic to you that was introduced to me over the past two days.  I don't know what to do with it, but I know I must because it is about death, and loss and disconnection.

Look at your watch.  If yours is like mine, it has a date on it.  Look at that date.  Mine says April 12, 2006. 

Today, this day, 8,000 people will die of Aids.  That's a big number.

Death on a scale that only Stalin, Hitler, Mao or Sadaam could approximate.  But this isn't death by political edict, but a grassroots viral movement to wipe out families, communities, cultures, and generations of people. 

I hate death. It is such a waste.

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The Christmas Katrina Didn't Wipe Out

I wrote earlier about my daughter Shelby's project to buy Christmas gifts for children in Mississippi affected by Hurricane Katrina. Here's the update.Img_3293

Update: Shelby in the Christmas Day Hendersonville Times News

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Shelby's Christmas for Mississippi Children

Pascal's Diversion Trap and Hurricane Recovery
Blaise Pascal, 17th century scientist, inventor and philosopher once wrote,

    "Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things."

After talking with a few people along the Mississippi  Gulf Coast this week, the American public -Oh, those of short attention-spans - needs to know that things have not returned to normal in the region where Hurricane Katrina hit almost three months ago. Even after tremendous efforts in relief and recovery, for many, many people there is not light at the end of the tunnel.  There are no prospects that they will be able to return to their homes any time soon.  And word this week came that FEMA will cease to pay for motel rooms for displaced families after December 1.  The majority of America has moved on to other diversions, yet the people along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama still suffer.

Read further about what I've learned of the situation in Mississippi and about what my daughter is doing about it.

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TED Pledgeblog Challenge - My pledge

In my last posting I commented on Pledgebank.  It is a great idea.  But I was less impressed with the posted pledges.  Chris Anderson on his TED blog issued a challenge to create an "eyepopping" pledge.  So, I've taken him up on it.

I've been moved by the devastation that occurred with Hurricane Katrina. I've been down there.  Seen it first hand and know what I'm supposed to do to help.  As a planning consultant, there are many organizations that will need help in planning for their future.  For example, a pastor of one church with whom I talked, lost his house, and almost all his members were evaculated, and have not returned. He has four members now.  This is the supreme planning challenge.  What does he do to rebuild his church community?  I want to help him. 

So, I had already decided to give a week a month for six months to go in particular to the Mississippi gulf coast to help.

The TEDblog Pledgebank challenge struck me as a way to raise the stakes of my going.  So here is my pledge as posted.

I'll give one day of free strategic planning consultation services to the first 10 non-profit organizations and 10 churches along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana that pledge to send a recovery team or support in some substantial way the recovery efforts in a community impacted by a natural disaster during 2006.

My experience along the Gulf two weeks ago demonstrated to me the overwhelming kindness, caring and generosity of the American people.  Never could I imagine that managing the offers of help and support would become a burden to people there.  But they have.  The people who I met who have received help are incredibly grateful for the help.  (You can read more of my reflections here, here and here.)

There is a convergence of ideas here that we need to take note of.  One is Pledgebank.  Two is the generosity of people who are willing to sacrifice to help others. Three is the opportunity that the recovery from Hurricane Katrina provides to create pathways of caring that have not existed.  When I began my Connecting Churches to Churches project I conceived of long-term partnerships between churches to the extent that pulpit exchanges, service teams, etc would happen between churches impacted by the hurricane and those across the country.  It is this very thing that lies behind my pledge. 

I hope all who read this will make pledges to help others.  Don't make pledges to things that you would do anyway.  Stick your neck out.  Take some risk.  Challenge yourself to take some leadership initiative to make a difference by magnify your own simple act.  Let's see what can happen.

Loss of Pespective and the Urgency for Action

Clearly, what has happened this week in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is unprecedented in our nation's history.  Since there is nothing to compare the extent and comprehensiveness of the devastation, there is no perspective.  It seems all we can do is give money.  That's important, but it just doesn't seem enough.  The good intentions of American citizens and philanthropic agencies are not enough.  it is time for institutions that have specific solutions for the people lost in this tragedy to act.  Act in a coordinated fashion, but act now. 

This came home to me reading a story about a RN from Birmingham who flew to New Orleans and brought four neo-natal patients back with him.  He's going to go get two more tomorrow.

Read the whole story from Hugh Hewitt's posting.

Just to update everyone. We just returned from New Orleans to Birmingham with 4 neonatal patients at the same time on transport. We flew to New Orleans airport via jet and Lifesaver helicopter met us > there with the helicopter. Lifesaver took 3 crew members from the airport to Oschner since there was no ground access due to flooding. Oschner's heliport was under water and we landed on the parking deck. With equipment in hand, we walked down 6 flights of stairs, (all of the elevators are out of service), through the hospital where there is caution tape and leaks all throughout the hallways. We then walked up two flights of stairs to the unit where they are now caring for the babies. Luckily it was now the 2nd floor instead of originally the 10th floor. All of the windows were blown out of the 10th floor by the storm. On the flight into the airport all you could see is destruction and water everywhere, I thought "Truly a saddening sight", then with the flight on the helicopter it got worse. We were much closer at that point and could see more destruction, more water, looters, Police/ EMS, and uncontrolled fires all over.

Upon entering the make-shift nursery, the first two staff were onphones crying their eyes out talking to someone on the other end trying to cope. All of the staff in the unit were overjoyed to see that someone had come to help. They had requested help from all over but they told us we were the only ones to show up today. They thought we were coming for only one patient and when we told them we had the resources to transport 4, they were shocked to say the least. Then we said maybe we can help more tomorrow and to our surprise they all were even more excited that we would come back again to help. The nurse practioner in the unit pulled me aside and asked me "How bad is it out there looking from the air? I mean really, is it as bad as they say?" With tears running down her face and tears in my eyes I said "Yes Ma'am it is, maybe worse and my heart is broken for all of you down here". With that she had to walk away.

All of the staff are working in t-shirts, shorts and flip flops due to the lack of ventilation. It was at least 110-120 degrees in the unit. They had all of the babies in open cribs or warmers that were off and all were down to their diapers, some with elevated temps still. All of the staff have been there since Saturday and said they don't think they will be able to leave until the 5th of September. With that said, many have nothing to go home to.

Tonight all 4 babies came back to UAB RNICU but they have at least two more babies for us to transport tomorrow and Dr. Prince here in Birmingham said we could bring one back to TCH and one to UAB. Plans may change by tomorrow.

New Orleans is in a total state of destruction and chaos and my heart is broken so badly. I didn't have good words to make them feel better but made sure they all knew they were in my thoughts and prayers.

I'm sorry to have been so chatty but I had to release somewhat.

Respectfully and mentally/emotionally drained,

Jason Peterson RN Coordinator, Critical Care Transport

Children's Hospital of Alabama

Two reactions to this.

1.  The on-the-ground situation is bad beyond comprehension.  The conditions that exist - it would seem - make even the best relief effort impossible.  The scale of the effort makes it doubly so.  How long will it take to get the situation stabilized?  My guess is that no one knows.  So, what do we average citizens do?  Give money. Then when the next paycheck comes in, give some more.  Wrap your brain around the idea that a million people maybe without shelter,food, clothing, work, transportation and a city to live in, not for a week, but possibly forever.  Not forever, but many may not return to New Orleans to live, and that is forever.

Volunteer at your local Red Cross or Salvation Army, or any number of the local relief groups that will be taking goods South.  Prepare to go with a recovery team to help rebuild. There will be groups, like Presbyterian Diaster Assistance, that will go in later and help organize local communities to rebuild.  if you want something hands on, call your local Presbyterian Church, and offer to help.  Need a list of agencies who are helping?  Go to Instapundit here.

2. The problems on the Gulf Coast are beyond the indivduals, the charities, the state and federal agencies to resolve on their own.  It is going to take those specialized institutions like hospitals to join the effort to avert a growing disaster.  If you work in a hospital that has space, arrange for patients to be brought to you.  Don't wait to be asked.  Work with your local Red Cross to help.  Think about how your business or profession can provide assistance.  It is going to be a long road to recovery, and they will need all the help they can get. 

Leadership character for times of crisis

Peggy Noonan, as always one of the nation's most insightful, wise, humble commentators, speaks to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

She starts by speaking of the leadership of the governors of the ravaged states.  She sets it up by writing,

Political leadership in times of crisis is a delicate thing. You have to be frank about the fix you're in without being demoralizing. You have to seem confident without seeming out of touch with reality. You have to be human without indulging all your very human emotions. Rudy Giuliani set the modern standard on 9/11, and in a way that is not remarked upon. All his public statements were brilliantly specific. He told you exactly what resources were on their way to do what and where and why; he told you the No. 4 subway had been diverted west and then south until 11 a.m. Saturday; he told exactly which blocks were closed off and for how long; he told you New York would come back and then he told you why and how. His leadership was a masterpiece of specificity. That he had the facts at his command left people feeling: Thank God, someone's in charge, I can take care of me while he takes care of the city. That's what people want in a time of crisis.

This is certainly true.  You have to be human and in control, mostly in control of your own emotions.

In a time of crisis, people need the affirmation that things will work themselves out, no matter how badly things get.  It is leadership that provides the basis for that confidence.

How do they do this?  There are three leadership traits that are important, and each ultimately goes to the leader's own personal character.

1.  The ability to separate one's own personal concerns from the crisis.  The governors and the President cannot worry about what this means for their political future.  Any calculation will be smelled out, and be worse than ineffective action at the start. 

What comes with staying focused on the crisis is clarity of mind and purpose.  Not living in Florida, I've always been struck by Jeb Bush's command of a crisis as similar natural disasters have struck his state.  The image I have is of the older brother who is always there to take care of things when Mom is not around.  That strength of character that is seen in quiet, determined confidence can only come when one's own personal benefits are put aside.  They can't be on the table.

2.  The ability to be resourceful in a time of crisis is another character trait important for leaders.  Being resourceful is part decisiveness, creativity and innovation, part resilient determination, a never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude, and part networker extraordinaire, knowing where the resources are and how to get them. 

Leaders in a time of crisis don't have time to learn how to be resourceful, or even where the resources are.  They have to have resource utilization on their minds at all times.  So that every time they meet someone, they are putting into their mental database a note saying, "Call on this person when we need such-in-such."

In this regard, resourceful leaders are catalysts, connectors and facilitators of the talent and resources that has not been systematically linked together for a specific cause or purpose.  But as long as the leader knows who that person is, and how to get to them, then resources will be available. 

Note: Watch for the miraculous stories of people who found what they needed, when they needed it, and look to see who it is that made it happen. That person is has a future as a leader.

3.  The ability to be optimistic and resolute without falling into sentimentality.  Leaders have to believe that whatever crisis confronts them that together they will get through.  Time and again we see stories of people overcoming huge, crushing odds to succeed.  This will be the case in the aftermath of Katrina.

The challenge for leaders is not to let the overwhelming need diminish your belief in the people you lead.  They will be confident because you are confident.  They will sacrifice because they see you laying it all out on the line for your people.  Optimism isn't spin.  It is the energy of commitment. 

A leader who combines these character traits doesn't wish for crisis, especially on the level that we are seeing this week.  But he or she doesn't shrink from the challenge.  They welcome it because they know that when they are done, people and their lives can be better.

From the wreckage of crisis and natural disaster, leaders of character arise.  it will be interesting to watch and see who will emerge as one.

Final note:  This type of leadership doesn't require a position of high authority for it to have its positive effect.  Each one of us can look beyond our own personal concerns, look to the resources we can share, and give believing that out of the rubble of the storm will come a revitalized gulf coast.  So give if you can, pray if you will, and look for opportunities to make a difference in your own community as the effects of this monumenal natural disaster touch us all.