To People Who Need A little Inspiration,
It was a cold day on January 15, 2009, the day I began to realize that I am one of the luckiest people on earth. My girlfriend dropped me off at Laguardia Airport for a flight I booked in an emergency the day before. My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time and I was flying through Charlotte, North Carolina to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to help my grandmother take him to some doctors’ appointments.
I boarded the plane and we took off, just like any flight. Approximately two minutes into the air, there was an explosion. It was scary. We lost power. I looked outside the left side of the plane and the engine was bursting into flames. Then we had a weightless moment. It felt like we were about to nose dive.
Next, the pilot started to turn the plane, which made me feel like he had control over it.
But then, he got on the loudspeaker and said, “Brace for impact.”
When you hear that on a plane it basically means you’re about to die.
The flight attendants started to chant, “Brace! Brace! Keep your head down.”
I could hear the fear in their voices.
The whole time I was glancing out of the window, watching New York City inch closer and closer to us. I was confused and scared but something inside of me made me feel that I was going to be fine.
We hit the Hudson River hard, skipping like a rock on the water.
The lights turned off and the pilot yelled, “Evacuate! Evacuate!”
Then the smell of jet fuel punched me in the face. But I still made it to the front of the plane and slid down into a raft.
I like to say I had a luxurious plane crash because I didn’t even get wet.
Once I detached from the plane, I knew I was going to be OK. Sitting on the raft, looking around at this incredible scene was surreal.
I high-fived the guy next to me and said, “Dude, we just F******* survived a plane crash!”
I have been laughing and smiling ever since.
The flight attendants started to chant, “Brace! Brace! Keep your head down.” I could hear fear in their voices.
The crash is named The Miracle on the Hudson. We landed in a body of water and no one died. Everyone on my flight survived. It was truly miraculous.
Through it all, I began to truly understand old clichés like, “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
And “Nothing is impossible.”
See, I know whatever I go through in life, no matter how grave or scary the situation, I am going to be just fine.
I no longer allow fear or adversity to hold me back, flying on more than 600 flights since landing on the Hudson River.
In my life, I can see the light at the end of the deepest and darkest tunnels.
And the world has most certainly tested me.
Nine years after my plane crash, at 36 years old, I suddenly lost feeling in my face from my chin to my lips. My friend, Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist, suggested I get some blood work. Shortly after, he called to tell me I had cancer. It took ten days of testing to actually diagnose me with stage 4 Burkett’s lymphoma, which is a lymphatic cancer that goes through the entire body. The doctor told me without treatment, I had 2-7 days to live.
From the first moment that I was diagnosed to when I went into Memorial Sloan-Kettering for chemotherapy, I never stopped thinking positively or smiling.
I was given some of the most intense chemo. And while going through my treatments, I would tell the nurses how I am the luckiest person in the world.
They would say, “What do you mean? You’re getting chemo right now…”
I just knew that I was going to survive.
I knew beating cancer would be another experience I could use to inspire people.
Sure enough, I was right. I am now 15 months in remission. Getting sick taught me additional life lessons, as I have started living a healthier lifestyle, eating well and exercising daily.
While many people would say I am unlucky for being in a plane crash and getting cancer, I consider myself extremely lucky considering most people don’t survive either.
And I am not the only one with luck.
You are lucky, too. You simply have to realize it. If you take the time every day to think about how lucky you are for the opportunities and people in your life, you will genuinely be happier.
Gratitude is key. Smile through the toughest moments, even when you’re looking up at a very steep hill. There is always hope. Once you know that, see that and feel that you become capable of so much more in life.
So, when I tell you I am a lucky person, I want you to understand that luck is not about randomly avoiding bad situations, but rather choosing to see endless possibilities in all circumstances.
Today is your lucky day! Go enjoy it!
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Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.