The Hudson

In the winter of 2009, two days before my son was born, I walked my father the four miles from the door of my Brooklyn apartment, across the Manhattan Bridge, to the pier on the city’s west side. I hoped the walk would relieve the tightness of early contractions. He wanted to see the Hudson River where, days before, a pilot had landed an Airbus A320 smoothly and pelican-like onto the black water, keeping plane and passengers intact.

My father had taken flight lessons when he first moved to the United States with no greater ambition than that of flying a plane across a field in Morristown, New Jersey, and learning to land it steadily. He devoted himself to the forces of lift, weight, thrust, drag. Angles of attack. During his early years in New Jersey, he spent evenings at the Newark Airport watching planes scrape against the tarmac, dip their noses expectantly into the air and take off with all the presumption of safety and destination. 

Before I was born my cousin, my father’s favorite niece, hemorrhaged to death after giving birth. The women before her had all delivered at home, assisted by a village midwife.  My cousin gave birth in an urban hospital with a trained doctor. The labor had been easy. Afterwards she held the baby, a healthy girl, named her, and then the bleeding started.

My father sees life as a balance of chance and skill, accepting when chance leads to disaster and marveling when skill averts it. He took his first flight as an infant, as a refugee fleeing the violence of India's Partition. On his second flight he left India, hoping that smarts and work could tip the scale of uncertainty in his favor. That afternoon on the Hudson, anticipating the birth of his first grandchild, I saw as much chance in the collision of bird and plane as in a pilot’s smooth landing. Even the steadiest of hands slip.

The plane is nothing but a mass of metal, its wing just slicing through the river, but my father is captivated. He tells me that the city is preparing to lift the plane by barge and harness in the coming days. Hours after it is removed from the Hudson, I breathe and push my son into existence. There were hours of steady pain, each contraction followed immediately by the expectation of another. He was blue-tinged and swollen from labor. 

The window of our hospital room overlooked the river on one side, and the scaffolding and construction of New York City on the other. All around us, the air looked grey and punishing. My husband held the baby first, taking him in with his fingers and eyes. Then he steadied himself and placed him on my chest.





Category: Airplanes

Latest Stories
Checking In/Checking Out

Filter by Category

Everyone has a story to tell...

Submit Yours Here

Points of Departure: