[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/16/hudson.plane.crash/art.tow.gi.jpg caption="Crews prepare to tow the US Airlines Airbus A320 that crash-landed in the Hudson River on Thursday."]
The plane floated past my apartment – I live about two blocks off the Hudson in the West Village – and when I first saw it I didn't realize what i was looking at, the tugs must be pulling it down the river, it's moving so fast, surrounded by a flotilla of ferries, tugs and police boats, the latter still zipping in circles with their blue lights flashing.
At the pier, people pressed three deep against the railing, cell phones held up to take photos, those with good lenses jumping up on planters and benches. I wasn't the only person to just dump my bike and run, although I couldn't help thinking that today would be a good opportunity to steal a bike, but when I glanced back, everyone had eyes for just one thing, the few lines of the plane that still jut out of the water, the big news story that at this point is probably floating by Battery City as I type.
They closed down the southbound lanes of the West Side Highway and unmarked police cars were on the bike paths and buzzing down the pier. People are so happy that crew and passengers survived, and were shouting the good news into their phones – unless, of course, like me, they were trying to hold them up and take pictures. The man next to me commiserated: he wasn't very good at it either.
My first stop had been the roof and when I ran through our lobby to the elevator bank, one of our porters, Edwin, said I was crazy to go up there in the cold. I threw him a look of Minnesota-bred disdain – you call this cold? – and in a minute, he was by my side. From a distance – just like Julie Gold's song, one of my neighbors – the boats and their lights floated on the water around the plane the way a circle of flowers would if you threw them out on the river.
When I was a young reporter, I used to keep a notebook in the glove compartment of my car, just in case a plane crashed as I was driving around. It's hard to fight that impulse, and i'm so happy that this particular story has a happy ending.
For me, this is such a New York story, the way all the little villages here add up to a big city.I was in a little shop in my neighborhood when a delivery boy walked in and said in perfect Brooklynese "Yo, my ma just called, a plane from JFK just went into the water and everyone's dead." I hurried home, just stricken, and when I saw the dogwalker for my building (a true NY story has a dogwalker), I couldn't believe that he was laughing and joking with the doorman. "Oh," I thought, "he must not know" and so I went to tell him.
"Oh, the plane," he said,"isn't it great?"
No, no, I protested, people are dead and that's when he took my hand and said gently "Katherine, whatever someone told you is wrong. It's LaGuardia, everyone lived and it's going to float right by here."
And THAT's when I ran inside and went to the roof. I've written about the view from my apartment before – whenever I look out those windows, no matter my actual economic status, I feel rich. Now I look out at the Hudson and the lights of the Lackawanna Ferry terminal and I feel . . . grateful.
Editor's note: Katherine Lanpher is the author of the memoir "Leap Days." She is a contributing editor for More magazine and a substitute host on public radio's The Takeaway (www.thetakeaway.org). A former host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America, she moved to New York five years ago after many years in Minnesota.
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