[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]
New York City witnessed the seemingly impossible last week, when US Airways flight 1549 ditched into the icy Hudson river so gently that all 155 passengers walked away unharmed. Those merely witnessing the event, might be all the more frightened now, having not known (before) that birds flying into engines can cause such profound disaster.
But what about those on board, who experienced disaster and live to remember it?
Most of us already question the meaning of life, imagine how that pressure might increase when one comes through a near-death experience? Add guilt and post-traumatic stress, and you might think the survivors could face a permanent psychological handicap.
But research concludes otherwise.
Cardiologist Michael Sabom studied survivors of near-fatal cardiac arrest. These patients feared death less, were more accepting of life’s ups and downs and became more religious. (Results were published in 1982 in his book Recollections of Death: a Medical Investigation.)
And a 1999 study presented at the annual conference of the American Psychology Association, specific to the long-term effects of plane crashes, showed that survivors had significantly higher positive outlooks on life, greater self-esteem and, surprisingly, lower scores of emotional stress, than those who fly often but have never suffered a disastrous crash.
Gary Capobianco, the lead author, notes, however, that there is a correlation between the level of positive outlook and how much control survivors felt they had during the actual crash.
From the reports of those on board Flight 1549, it appears their brave and clear wits led to their immediate escape, and may have also put them in good stead for their long lives ahead.