Salvation at 3000 feet


The movie Sully masterfully recreates the events of the Miracle on the Hudson, the forced water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009. Sully remains gripping throughout in spite of the well known fact that Captain Sullenberger successfully guided the plane to a safe landing without any loss of life. The film remains tense and dramatic because it tells another story: the storm of questioning and controversy that engulfed the heroic pilot after the crash.

Unexplained emotion weighed heavily on me long after the movie ended. Was it catharsis from reliving the near-death experience of the passengers? Or an overwhelming feeling of respect for the pilot? I struggled to make sense of it, but a picture emerged which brought home a deeper understanding of my mood. The plight of the crew and passengers, so realistically portrayed by the film, so precarious and close to destruction, painted vividly the nearness of my own death and destruction apart from Jesus Christ in a way that I do not ever remember. I don’t mean that I have experienced a life-threatening event in the past. No, but the movie drove home to me that before Christ saved me I stood as near to eternal death as the men and women of Flight 1549. Oh the grace and mercy of God that saved me from such a terrible death! The heroism of Jesus to pour himself out in order to save me when there was no other means of escape!

That was the second revelation in Sully. First, to experience anew the sense of lostness and rescue that attended my salvation 47 years ago. Second, to see so realistically illustrated the doctrine that there is only one way to heaven. Now Sully isn’t about heaven, but it does center on a choice – the choice that Captain Sullenberger made in the seconds which followed the crippling bird-strike that destroyed both of his jet’s engines. At 3000 feet altitude his plane suddenly became a glider, and in less than 3 1/2 minutes that glider would return to earth. Sully chose to make that landing in the wide, unobstructed Hudson River, but his doubters suggested there were other options he could have chosen. Watch the film and decide for yourself, but I think you will agree that in art, as well as in life, there is only one path that leads all the way home. Praise be to God for providing that way in Jesus Christ!