A river runs through it

Friday, January 16, 2009 - 12:30 PM

Contributor's Notes: Paddy O'Connell on the US Airways Hudson River crash

Paddy O'Connell is the host of the BBC's Broadcasting House.

As we go to air, they'll be finishing their news conference on the New York plane crash. There's everything miraculous about it, and something awesome in the skill and bravery of the humans fighting an ailing machine. You know that people will have said, "Have you heard about the plane crash in New York...," open-mouthed at the details. But I wondered if there's space on the blog to chalk up a word for the river itself?

There's a spot on the banks of the Hudson where you can see where the Titanic survivors eventually reached dry land. They were taken to St. Vincent's hospital a few blocks away. On the morning of 9/11, medics stood in the street appealing for public blood donations as emergency vehicles headed downtown. So it's worth taking a moment to linger longer at the banks.

The passengers landed upstream of the totems of America. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, all a short ferry ride from Wall Street and the World Trade Center. The plane ditched somewhere off West 48th Street, and it seems that in a city that was expecting the worst a sense of relief just swept over people. Named after an Englishman, its Native American name also means "the river that flows both ways." It also earned the name America's Rhine.

The plane hit the water miles downstream of West Point, and of FDR's mansion. He's meant to have said, "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River."

So this rant might not be news, but would you agree that this news of the plane and its deliverance on the Hudson proves why the history of a city is something best told by its river?


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