What awaits each person in heaven is eternal bliss, divine rest, and 10,000 dollars in cash

So, let me see if I get this straight — if I’m in a situation where I almost get to heaven, does that mean I can claim that someone owes me half of that amount?

There’s a group of people I know of who definitely thinks so.

Who for example?  Certainly none of the 155 surviving passengers from US Airways Flight 1549, who I would think should be somewhere today counting their blessings that everyone emerged from the miraculous landing on the Hudson River by pilot Chesley Sullenberger alive and (relatively) well on January 15.

But no — you see, a handful of passengers have already talked to a lawyer since the incident.  Considering the mentality of so many people in this country these days — that of  “What does the world owe me today?” — should any of us be surprised?

US Airways has already sent a letter of apology to those involved in the accident.  An apology for what, exactly?  All evidence so far has suggested that the incident was due to freak bird activity, and that US Airways should bear no responsibility for the downing of the plane.  In fact, the entire crew of the plane acted, from all accounts, with the utmost professionalism.  The awards and citations they’ve received since are certainly proof enough of that.

US Airways has sent passengers a $5000 check to aid with reimbursement for the ticket, as well as to cover damages incurred from loss of luggage and belongings.   According to the airline’s Vice President, Jim Olson, an insurance claims specialist has also been retained to guarantee that passengers who may have lost over $5000 of possessions are reimbursed for the difference.

So what in the world are the lawyers for?  Well, if any major injuries had occurred, that would be understandable.  But in most of the passengers’ situations, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as from reports the worst any of them sustained were some bruises and abrasions (a flight attendant suffered the worst injury of all, a leg abrasion).  Not too bad, all things considered — I’m sure the 876 passengers who perished in air crashes in 2008 alone would have been happy to have been so “inconvenienced”.

Instead, there are a number of passengers who are consulting with attorneys and preparing legal strategies to — well, I’m not sure exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, other than attempting to profit by an unfortunate accident — and that’s exactly what it was, an accident — that could have resulted in the loss of lives, but thankfully didn’t.

Not included with every airline travel ticket

** Not included with every airline travel ticket

At least some of the passengers have made the claim that they’ve experiencing trouble flying since the accident.  Well, I would guess that would be a normal reaction from someone who just survived a near-death experience.  Heck, I’ve been unnerved before from a close call or two I’ve had before on the highway.  But, in this case, we’re supposed to believe that the lives of the passengers in this accident were so traumatized that someone — US Airways, I would imagine — owes them something (so long as that something is in the color green).

Here’s a little lesson for you, my friends.  My mother was in a car accident 24 years ago (no injuries, just shaken up passengers) and ever since then she’s been unnerved about traveling on the road as a passenger.  Surprise, surprise — she managed to not sue anyone.  Guess she blew a golden opportunity, huh?

Myself, I’ve been unable to fly for nearly 30 years now.  I lived in the Chicago metropolitan area back in 1979, when American Flight 191 plummeted into the ground after takeoff, killing everyone aboard, and I was vacationing with family in Louisiana when Pan-Am Flight 759 crashed in Kenner, leaving no survivors aboard and casualties on the ground.  These accidents were undoubtedly the roots of my flying phobia that’s kept me firmly rooted to the ground ever since — maybe our opportune, litigious-minded passengers think I missed the boat by not suing the airlines myself.

But forget what I say about the situation — the best words of condemnation come from other passengers from Flight 1549 (who, I’m taking a wild guess here, suffered the same amount of  “trauma”).  Dave Sanderson, a sales manager from Charlotte and father of four, said he was just thankful to be alive and expressed no reason to talk to an attorney. “US Air has been doing the right thing,” he said. “Everyone is acting in a responsible way.”

Another passenger, Amber Wells, a senior manager for NASCAR, was also thankful to just be alive.  “Everything that’s gone can be replaced. My life cannot be replaced.”

Now that’s the attitude any one of us would hopefully have if a tragedy — or near-tragedy — befalls us.  But don’t despair, any of you passengers who plan on suing the airline — your lottery check from US Airways might never reach your mailbox, but all of you do have this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo Award to brighten your spirits until then.  Just don’t sue me if it doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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