After the Jan. 15 ditching of a USAirways jet into the icy Hudson River, I know one thing: We will all be paying much closer attention during the flight safety instructions. You know, that part of the flight when the plane is taxiing to the runway that you usually ignore? I know I do. I fumble with my purse, digging for the iPod and gum. I make sure my reading material is in order. I turn off my cell phone, check my sweater, fasten the seat belt. Pray. Everything except listening to or watching a video of the flight attendant drone on about exits above the wings. I occasionally look at the seat-back safety card, but only when I'm bored.
In the past, some people might have thought, "If my plane hits the water, that's it. Game over." But seeing a water landing and evacuation handled so successfully in New York made me think about the process. Why were some passengers wearing life vests but others were not? Did some people just get out as quickly as possible and not bother with a flotation device? Do the flotation devices really work?
The "miracle on the Hudson," as it's become known, was truly a rare event - not many planes land on the water in a manner that allows for such an efficient rescue and 100 percent survival. Still, it's a reminder to all of us about how important it is to know where the exits are, to only sit in the emergency exit row if we're really prepared to take the responsibility and to be aware of where we're seated. (As you enter the plane, tap and count the back of seats from the front of the airplane to the row you're seated in. That way if there's smoke or poor visibility, you can find an exit.)
The USAirways emergency landing also gives us another reason to thank the pilots on our way out. They may be all that's standing between us and a trip to the great beyond.