Thursday, January 13, 2011
I retrieved my watercolors and paper from my closet, set up by a window that overlooked a wooded area in the back of my apartment, then reached over and turned on the radio by my bed.
Late in the afternoon, just after four, a news bulletin announced that a Washington D.C. departing flight, Air Florida flight 90, had gone down in the Potomac just after takeoff. The immediate thought I had was, if the plane didn’t get much lift, there might be survivors. In fact, the burden to pray for those in that plane was so heavy, all I did was pray and paint, pray and paint. It was rare that I’d have so much time just to pray.
I didn’t know the drama unfolding at the time. There were survivors—six of them, one crewmember and five passengers. Flight attendant Kelly Duncan passed the only inflatable device she could find to one of the more seriously injured passengers. Passenger Arland Williams Jr., continually passed the rescue lines to help save others. A bystander on the bridge, Lenny Skutnik, jumped in the frigid water from the 14th Street Bridge to assist. All made it to safety, except for Williams who spent twenty-nine minutes in the icy water before going down with the plane’s tail—the only passenger to die by drowning. The 14th Street Bridge is now named after Arland Williams Jr. He and Lenny Skutnik , and another heroic bystander, Roger Olian, were awarded Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving Medals along with the Coast Guard Helicopter Pilots who heroically assisted in the rescue.
Two of the surviving passengers, Bert Hamilton and Patricia Felch, died in 2002 of natural causes. One survivor, Priscilla Tirado, rarely speaks with reporters, and another, Joseph Stiley has suffered many health problems.
Kelly Duncan later left the aviation industry, and earned a degree in early childhood education, which she’s used to teach children in a Christian school. Now married, Kelly Duncan Moore said to a CNN interviewer in 2005, that the crash changed her priorities. “I feel like everyday has been a blessing. I have a wonderful life…It sounds crazy to say it, but that accident changed my life for good. God used a bad thing to turn my life around."
I’ve often reflected on what difference my prayers and those of others like me might have made in the lives of the survivors that day. I guess I’ll never know until I reach heaven. I do have a note in one of my journals from 1988 of hearing one of the male survivors (didn’t get his name) on a “Focus on the Family” broadcast speak about how he knew he was alive, because people prayed for him.
One thing’s for sure though, I know those prayers made a difference in my life. It was early in my walk with the Lord, and as I found out there were indeed survivors of that crash, I felt my prayers had mattered, which gave me courage to continue praying and to pray boldly.
Today, the families of the seventy-eight people who died in that crash are still missing their loved ones (four died on the 14th Street Bridge when the plane hit it just before the crash). Would you join me in saying a prayer for them? And let’s thank God for the courageous spirit of those who risked their own lives to save others. May their tribe increase.
“And pray in the spirit on all occasions…” Ephesians 6:18.