On 15 January 2009, US Airways flight 1594 took off from New York headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, on a routine Thursday afternoon. As the plane began to climb away from the airport, there was a loud crash and the engines shut down. The plane had flown into a flock of geese, and the engines had been damaged by the birds.
Rick Elias was on that flight and was sitting in seat 1D. Rick was the CEO of a tech company and was doing very well in life. He had achieved the American dream with lots of money, a family, nice house, nice car, and the prestige of being a company CEO.
The plane could not make it back to the airport and the pilot decided to ditch it in the Hudson River. It was the captain’s only option but would most likely result in a crash that could kill many on board. As the plane glided down close to the river the pilot came over the intercom and said “brace for impact.” Little did Rick know that this would be prophetic statement in his life in more than one way. Because in that moment Rick said he learned three very important lessons:
- That life can change in an instant
- That he regretted wasting time on stuff that did not matter
- And that all he wanted to do was to see his kids again
On that fateful day, Rick says he got the gift of looking death in the face. In that moment when he thought it might all end, he realized that the only thing that mattered to him was the chance to live and be the best father he could be. His perspective on life and purpose in life changed instantly from trying to achieve the American dream to pursuing a life of being a great dad.
Fortunately, most of us have not had to face death like Rick did that day. And yet I think we all realize that Rick did receive a gift that day that most of us envy. He experienced an event that undoubtedly has helped him put first things first, and it has changed his life. The question for us is whether or not we can do the same without having to face an event of such magnitude.