Miracle on the River to Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov 6, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Miracle on the River to Thanksgiving Dinner

By: Maria Matheus

Braving the Storm

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

On January 15, 2009, approximately two minutes into its voyage, US Airways flight 1549 leaving New York's LaGuardia Airport collided with a flock of geese. The engines shut down and the aircraft began to descend. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger issued a mayday call, turning back towards the airport when he was unable to restart the engines.

When Captain Sully realized they would be unable to make it back safely, he instead steered the aircraft over the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River.

As the plane passed over West 50th Street and Weehawken, NJ, the flight attendants broadcasted through the cabin, "Brace, brace, head down, stay down."

Abruptly jolted from a routine commute for work, passenger and Jacksonville resident Casey Jones's thoughts turned to his wife, wishing he could tell her he loved her. Instead, he followed the attendants' instructions and braced for the impact. During the descent, he focused on the mantra: "Brace, brace, head down, stay down." Soft, fervent prayers filled the cabin, neither hysteria nor calm prevailing.

When the aircraft crashed into the Hudson River, the sound was thunderously shattering. The freezing water began flooding into the bottom of the plane, and the passengers quickly followed safety instructions, lining up and climbing onto the wings of the doomed craft.

Reaching the Needy

The righteous care about justice for the poor. Proverbs 29:7

In the impact of the crash, Casey suffered a small laceration on his head. As frigid water rose inside the aircraft, he waited his turn as all other passengers evacuated from the plane wings.

As the last passenger to step off the aircraft, Jones fell into the Hudson River. Thoughts of his family motivated him to escape the icy water.

Reaching dry land and wearing borrowed, oversized clothing, Jones looked into his hotel mirror to see his shockingly disheveled appearance. He recalls, "I saw an image of a homeless individual after falling in the water, causing my hair to flow in all directions." He continues that this was not a negative image.

With that image in his mind, after returning home Jones sought out ways to contribute to humanity's well-being. Hearing a radio broadcast on Jacksonville's WOKV 104.5 FM, he learned that The Salvation Army raises money for Thanksgiving turkeys to help families in need. The knowledge of this program coupled with his experience on the Hudson River engendered a deep compassion within him for the homeless and those in need.

Feast of Thanksgiving

But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18

In two days, Jones raised enough money to purchase more than 140 turkeys through only a few contacts. The following year, Jones doubled his contact list resulting in increased donations.

In his third year, he enhanced the drive through social media and news coverage, raising enough funds for 244 turkeys. The Miracle on the Hudson Turkey Drive was established to benefit The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. Adding a GoFundMe page, Jones worked to raise almost $10,000 dollars for the ninth annual turkey drive.

In 2022, Casey Jones held his 13th Miracle on the Hudson Turkey Drive, raising $15,111, exceeding his goal of fifteen thousand dollars.

"I am thrilled to be a part of the event that has taken on a life of its own," Jones says. "I just organized it, but it is the donors who make all the difference."

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