I always marvel at, say, pro athletes who compete and succeed at a very high level despite intense pressure and millions of eyes watching. How do you throw that Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass with 300-pound men descending upon you and everything on the line? How do you bash that go-ahead homerun late in the World Series when your team needs it most? How do you drain that three in the NBA Finals with the hand of a 6'9" forward in your face?
But, at the end of the day, these are just games. Not life-and-death situations. Now imagine piloting a large, commercial passenger jet, 30,000 feet in the air, when suddenly, an ENGINE EXPLODES. Bad enough. But then shrapnel from that engine smashes a window in the passenger cabin, sucking a poor passenger halfway out, and jeopardizing the lives of hundreds who now appear to be on a hopelessly doomed flight.
Enter former Navy pilot/now Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults, who we hear in publicly-released plane-to-control tower communications, remaining calm, cool, and collected in a situation where most of us Average Joes would, quite frankly, s%*t our pants and no doubt crash the jet. Much like the heroic Miracle On The Hudson pilot Sully Sullenberger, Tammie Jo, with the aircraft in deep distress and a seriously injured passenger (who would later tragically pass away through no fault of the pilot or crew), manages to land the plane safely and preserve the lives of the hundreds of other passengers, averting a horrific mass tragedy.
What is in people like Tammie Jo Shults genetically that allows her to stay calm and do her job when all hell has broken loose and then some? What is in her DNA that I admittedly lack when it comes to doing my job? Hell, there are times I've been nervous doing my job talking on the radio - interviewing a big celebrity, trying to make a witty comment - child's play in the grand scheme of things.
I suppose what is in Tammie Jo is the same stuff - the right stuff - that is in astronauts. Or, closer to earth, what's in our military men and women, who execute their duties when their very lives and bodily safety are on the line second-by-second. The same stuff that is in our police officers and firefighters who save lives while running into imminent, known, life-threatening danger.
I don't know what that stuff is. I wish I had it, but I don't.
I'm just glad that people like Tammie Jo Shults have it.
And I know hundreds of Southwest passengers who would agree with me.