By David Sargent
One of the worst snowstorms to hit Washington, D.C. in
decades buffeted the city on January 13, 1982. Storm conditions delayed
the departure of Air Florida Flight 90 by an hour and forty-five minutes.
When the Boeing 737 took off from Washington National Airport, it was unable to
stay aloft and crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, which spans the Potomac
River, just two minutes after leaving the runway. The plane vanished into
the river except for the tail section, which had separated from the body of the
aircraft and floated. When emergency services arrived, they discovered 5
passengers and one flight attendant had survived the crash, and they were
clinging to the tail section in the icy waters.
The waters of the Potomac were extremely cold, just
one degree above freezing.
A person can only manage to stay alive in this frigid water for about 30
minutes. Rescuers were frantically trying to get to the surviving
passengers as quickly as possible. When their inflatable boats could not
navigate through the ice-filled waters,
a U.S. Park Police Helicopter Unit was called. Many onlookers, including
a television news camera man, witnessed the amazing rescue efforts of pilot Don
Usher and paramedic Gene Windsor.
After successfully retrieving a passenger (Bert
Hamilton) and the flight attendant (Kelly Duncan), Usher and Windsor went back
and lowered two lifelines from the helicopter to the remaining surviving
passengers. One of the passengers, Arland D. Williams, Jr., caught one of
the lines and passed it on to Joe Stiley, the most severely injured
survivor. Stiley slipped the line around his waist and grabbed Priscilla
Tirado, who was hysterical, having lost her husband and baby. Nikki Felch
took the second line. As they were being dragged to shore, Tirado and
Felch lost their grip and fell back into the water. Felch was wearing a
lifejacket, so Tirado became the immediate priority of the rescue efforts.
Tirado was slashing in the icy water, eyes wide and
wild-looking; she was going into shock. After several attempts, she was
unable to cling to the life-ring that was lowered to her. By this time,
she was traumatized, exhausted, and temporarily blinded from aviation
fuel. She began to drown.
Martin “Lennie” Scutnik, a low-level manager at the
U.S. Congressional Budget office, was observing the situation. At this
point, he decided that he could watch no more.
“I absolutely thought she was going to die if I didn’t go in and get
her.” Scutnik removed his coat and boots and jumped into the icy waters,
swam out to Tirado, and dragged her to safety.
Nikki Felch was rescued by the helicopter unit.
Unfortunately, when the unit went back to rescue Arland D. Williams, he could
not be found. He, along with the tail of the jet, had sunk beneath the
waters. (See A Heroic
Sacrifice, Living Water, 9/15/06).
Less than a month later, President Ronald Reagan
invited Lennie Scutnik to attend the 1982 State of the Union Address, where he
was seated next to the First Lady. When President Reagan recognized
Scutnik, he received a long standing ovation. Heroes like Scutnik are now
celebrated at nearly every State of the Union Address. The Washington
Press Corps often refers to them as ‘Scutniks’.
The selflessness and sacrifice of the “Scutniks”
provide a glimpse of the Greatest Hero of all: JESUS CHRIST.
When WE were “drowning” in sin and doomed to eternal
destruction, God sent His Son Jesus to rescue us. Jesus gave His life so
that we might have forgiveness of our sins and so that we “should not perish
but have eternal life” (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7).
Jesus will save those who cling to the Lifeline (Jesus
Himself) by.... placing their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning
from their sins in repentance
(Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being
baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
He will continue to cleanse those who continue to trust Him and follow Him as a
way of life (1 John 1:7).
Won’t YOU cling to the Lifeline through your trusting
* Information gleaned from
http://listverse.com/2010/10/09/top-10-real-life-good-samaritans/ and www.wikipedia.com.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of
Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic
devotional entitled Living Water." To learn more about this excellent
resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org