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A Much-Needed Hero for Troubled Times
Date:1/16/2009

Pilot's action in landing jet in NYC waters and saving lives should inspire those dealing with their own struggles, experts say

FRIDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- When the "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot eased his crippled jetliner into the frigid waters off New York City on Thursday, he did much more than save the lives of 155 people on board.

US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III gave the battered American psyche a much-needed boost amid wave after wave of unnerving news -- from the unraveling financial system, soaring unemployment and record home foreclosures, to the ever-present threat of terrorism and the reality of war, mental health experts say.

"The country always needs role models who perform heroic acts -- it boosts people's sense of humanity. It gives people confidence that there are truly selfless and competent people out there," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.

Heroic acts like Sullenberger's also reinforce the sense that some things can go right when so many things are going wrong, Hilfer added.

"At the moment, that is especially necessary," he said. "Individual acts of heroism or professionalism inspire people to be able to recognize that there are well-trained, knowledgeable people whom we can depend upon."

Hilfer added that people need heroes to inspire and to distract them, especially during tough times.

The crash landing of Flight 1549 came after the pilot took off from La Guardia Airport and reportedly hit a flock of birds, which left both engines without power. Sullenberger then deliberately turned the plane over the Hudson River and landed it in the water. After passengers exited to water ferries standing by, according to news reports, the captain walked through his plane twice to make sure everyone was out.

James E. Maddux, a professor of psychology at George Mason University in
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