The captain and crew have made their way around all the major news outlets, giving interviews, getting their pictures taken, and receiving all kinds of praise and gratitude.
The captain is being called a hero and the whole affair is referred to as the "Miracle on the Hudson".
Do these people really feel like heros and heroines though? Intellectually, I guess they do, but emotionally, it is clear to me that they are suffering. Perhaps they feel more like victims? Do they welcome all the attention lavished upon them?
I saw one interview where one of the flight attendants said that she has not been able to put on her uniform since the Miracle. She just can't. Others said that they haven't returned to work. They just can't ... yet. In most interviews with the captain, he appears to be on the verge of tears.
Something that happened to me recently made me feel sad for the crew of the Miracle as I watched them on television this morning.
As some of you know, I am a Muslim chaplain in a prison. Chaplains often see things and hear things that most correctional staff (except the guards) do not. Being a chaplain can be emotionally and spiritually traumatic.
A few weeks ago, I was making my rounds in one of the restricted housing units. Part of my job is to pass each cell and make myself available to any inmate who may want to "talk". For the Muslims, I hand out prayer schedules and Islamic articles. Mostly, I provide supportive counseling and encouragement.
One particular afternoon, I passed a cell in a section that houses the acutely mentally ill who are in a therapeutic community program. As I passed the cell, I saw the inmate laying on the floor with her neck suspended in a homemade type of ligature.
This type of suicide attempt in prison is technically death by strangulation because it is usually very difficult to "hang up" due to the construction of prison cells (i.e., removing anything they can swing from). So, it is common for inmates to strangle themselves by putting a ligature around their neck and then leaning forward. If undiscovered, the inmate will pass out in a very short time and eventually die.
This inmate had rigged up a shirt or a pillowcase to the metal frame of the bed in the form of a "u", then laid on the floor face down and slipped her neck through it ... and then I came along.
I immediately called the guard over and a team went into the cell and resolved the situation. The inmate, Alhamdulillah, did not die. In no time, she was cussing everybody out and banging her head on the cell door.
The staff told me that "she does this all the time." Apparently, she does these things when she knows that staff are in the unit. She knows that someone will intervene.
They were used to her suicide gestures that she does for attention. After all, for some people, negative attention is better than no attention.
But the purpose of my post ...
When I left the prison, I was extremely upset. You see, in all my years in corrections, I have never seen anything like that. I have seen plenty of things, believe me. But never a suicide attempt. Even if it was "just for attention". It was pretty traumatic for me.
I did share about it with my husband and with two of my best Muslim sisters. Everyone agreed that Allah (swt) placed me in that situation for a reason. "Alhamdulillah, that you came by when you did, Safiyyah" I was told. "She could have died."
I was kind of like a hero.
But like the crew of the Miracle, I didn't feel like one.
The mental vision of the inmate laying on the floor like that played over and over in my head, the horrible image intruding when I least expected it. I still think about it.
There are no keys to the city for me, no TV shows. My husband and two friends have not mentioned it to me since, no one has asked me how I am, how I'm dealing with it, wondering if I'm OK.
Perhaps it's the tough image I portray to people. Like I can take it. Like I can handle it.
After all, I'm a chaplain. Sometimes I think people think that I have a special pipeline to God, Astaghfurallah. I think they think I'm extra spiritual or something. But I'm not. I'm like everyone else.
Every airplane pilot and crew attendant is trained for the possibility of perhaps one day having to deal with the unthinkable emergency.
Likewise, everyone who works in corrections, including the chaplain, is trained for the unthinkable emergencies.
It's part of our job.