Friday, January 16, 2009

The headline sat at the top of my screen and I read and reread it a few times.

"A plane just crashed into the Hudson River," I finally said to no one. Kind of blithely, the way you'd say, "Cold today, boy," or "You know what? I haven't been getting that much spam." The way you say something when you don't know if it should be said. Is it momentous when a plane lands in a river? When an earthquake kills a million in a vague, untouchable place, no one reads that out loud. Is this more like a subway getting stuck, or two planes crashing into towers? I can't tell. It's the fifteenth of January, 2009, and I don't know what's significant anymore.

Murmurs of puzzlement and curiosity. We all navigated to the news, like boats to the wreckage: the fuselage immersed in cold, gray water; tugs and ferries circling 'round. New Jersey's pale horizon in the distance. We gathered at John's screen and watched the streaming video: the reports emerging both dubious and true, the breathless eyewitness on the phone, the peculiar mix of tedium and prurience that attends TV coverage of aftermath. The spectacularization. The titling. The font. Miracle on the Hudson. The eager canonization of Chesley Sullenberger. The transmutation of charismatic survivors into perishable celebrities. It was all happening and so now we could relax.