|Rescue from Crash
by Kelly Moore as told to Joy Beverly
It was an ordinary Saturday morning, so ordinary its details are now forgotten. But
that evening my five-year-old daughter, Kinsey, and I were to attend a mother/daughter
banquet at church, and Kinsey was bouncing with excitement.
As I got dressed in my bedroom
with the television on in the background, the newscast suddenly caught my attention. I
moved closer to the set, a sick feeling forming in my stomach. While the details were
scarce, the aerial shots of the Valujet plane crash in the Everglades convinced me
everyone on board must be dead.
If it werent for how much it meant to Kinsey, I would have
considered not attending the banquet that night. I knew many well-meaning people would
question me about my reaction to the crash, and I wasnt sure I could handle it.
While I knew no one on the Valujet plane, I felt connectedconnected by a memory that
sometimes seems forgotten but always is there.
On a bitterly cold January day in 1982, I strapped myself into the rear
jump seat of Air Florida Flight 90, took a deep breath, and prepared for takeoff from
Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. As a flight attendant, Id spent my day placating
passengers who were either fearful or furious because of our many delays due to icy
weather. Finally, after de-icing, our flight was allowed to leave. I was as glad as the
passengers that we were finally getting underway, and settled back with a sigh of relief.
I knew most young women envied my lifestyle. My job offered exotic
travel, and my life at home in Miami was one of constant parties and friends. But lately
the partying left me empty. Was there more to life? I wondered. But everyone around me was
as mixed up as I was, no one had any answers.
As we began our trip down the runway, the plane picked up speed. But
something wasnt quite right. Although I didnt realize it at first, we
werent getting off the ground as quickly as we should have. A few seconds later, we
were airborne. But we were 1,900 feet farther down the runway and 15 seconds later than we
should have been for a normal takeoff.
When wed been in the air only a few moments, the plane began to
shudder violently. Instinctively I tightened my seat belt. One of the passengers looked at
me, terror distorting his face. But after that horrible image, my memory stops. I have no
recollection of the 737 crashing against the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River,
then plunging toward the ice-crusted river. I dont remember the plane slicing
through the three-inch thick sheet of ice and crumbling into pieces. What I do remember is
suddenly being free in the water, with no idea of how I got there. As I surfaced, I clung
to pieces of metal wreckage floating nearby and tried to look for other survivors. The icy
water made my entire body numb.
Other people floated near me, clutching at the cold metal and trying to
stay afloat. But I saw none of my coworkers, none of the flight crew, none of my friends.
Later I learned 74 people died in the crash. Only 5 survived.
As I clutched the wreckage and tried to stay above water, my hands
began to stick to the cold metal; I lifted them one at a time to keep them from freezing.
My elation at having survived the crash was replaced by the fear I wouldnt be
rescued in time. People stood at the banks of the Potomac but were unable to help us
because of the icy expanse that separated us. I knew the only way we could be rescued was
to be lifted out of the river. In my desperation, I did something Id never done
before: I prayed. I prayed to somehow be lifted up. And though it was my very first
prayeroffered in desperation and ignoranceGod answered me.
After 20 minutes in the freezing water, I heard the beautiful sound of
an approaching helicopter. It was nearly impossible for any of us to catch the rescue rope
and hold on while we were pulled to safety. Every survivor was seriously injured, besides
being weak and stiff from the cold. After several tries, I was the second one of the
survivors to be able to get the rescue rope around me. While the others were eventually
dragged through the water to safety, I was the only one who was completely lifted up out
of the water, as Id prayed.
While being transported to a nearby hospital, I realized God had saved
me from the crash I didnt know why, but I knew it was his strength that allowed me
to grasp that rope with frozen hands when I had no strength. Lying in the hospital, I
quietly prayed, "God, please tell me what Im supposed to do next."
A couple of days later, when I was moved from intensive care to a
regular room, I woke to see a nurse standing over me. She smiled, covering my fingers with
her warm, gentle hand, and said, "Little girl, I could get in big trouble for telling
you this, but God loves you and he saved you from that plane crash for a reason." In
response to my eager interest, my nurse risked her job to tell me of Jesus love for
me. As she spoke of how he died for me, I responded by turning my life over to Him. For
the first time I felt real peace.
When I prayed to accept Christ, I asked God to show me how I could know
more about him. I knew he would answer me.
By this time many of my family members and friends had arrived at the
hospital. I tried to tell them about my experience with God, but they believed my interest
in spiritual things was just a response to the shock from the accident.
After seeing the rescue on television, people from all over the country
sent me get-well cards and gifts. Tired of my excitement about my new faith, a friend
tried to distract me by asking me to open one of the gifts that had been sent. I wearily
complied, realizing he was embarrassed by all my talk about God. He was confused by my
conversion and probably just wanted "the old Kelly" back. But as I took the gift
he handed me, I continued to talk about my experience with God. "I dont even
know where to start in this kind of life," I told him. And as I tore open the gift, I
unwrapped the answer to my third prayer.
Inside the package was a Bible. Tucked inside the cover was a note from
a stranger in California whod seen the rescue on the news. The note said that if
Id never read the Bible, the book of John was a good place to start! I started
thereand have never stopped wanting to know more about Christ.
Others visited me and I continued to talk about my experience with God.
A flight attendant whod survived a similar crash visited me and listened patiently
as I told her about my experience with Gods forgiveness and power. When she said,
"I know how you feel. I went through the same experience of thinking about God after
the crash," I thought Id found someone who truly understood. But then she
added, "Dont worry. Your interest in God will soon pass." After she left,
I lay in my bed crying, begging God not to let it pass.
During my recovery, I stayed with my family in Atlanta, but instead of
a quiet recovery I found myself at the center of the medias attention. Reporters
camped out on my parents lawn, waiting for me to leave the house so they could
pressure me for an interview. I even saw a photographer trying to take a photo of me
through a closed window from outside the house.
My family urged me to go outside and grant the reporters an interview,
arguing that if I gave them a statement, they would go away. I thought maybe this was my
chance to tell the world what God had done in my life.
So I finally went outside to face the horde of reporters. I told them
how God had taken care of me and how I had changed. But their questions focused instead on
the details of the crash. When I read the article that had been written the next day, I
was shocked at how theyd distorted my words.
I felt betrayed and began to wonder whom I could trust. Thats
when God managed to bring people into my life who helped me look to God for strength in
recovering from the trauma of the crash. Loving Christians taught me how to follow God
through Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and quiet time with God. A special woman named
Gladys Coggeshall spent time with me, answering all my questionsquestions I felt too
shy to ask out loud among other Christians. She showed me how to memorize Scripture to
fill my mind with good thoughts to replace the bad. After being broken physically,
spiritually, and mentally by the events surrounding the crash, God began to heal me in
After about a month, I returned to Miami where Gladys helped me contact
another Christian woman who continued to help me grow. I attended a local church and began
to pray about returning to flying.
My thoughts were a mixture of fear and indecision, but I felt as though
God wanted me to go back to Air Florida and resume work. After about five months of
recovery time and recurrent training, I stepped back into an airplane for my first day of
At first everything seemed fine. The flight crew was aware of the
detail of my past few months and was eager to help me make my first flight a success. But
as the plane prepared for take-off and I once again strapped myself into the jump seat,
panic enveloped me. I thought, What am I doing here? Why am I putting myself through this?
But then Philippians 4:6-7 flooded my mind, and just as suddenly as the panic had come,
peace replaced it, along with a sense that I was doing the right thing.
One day a young man in the church named John asked me to go to dinner.
I remember telling my roommates I wasnt sure if I wanted to goI didnt
know if I wanted to date anymore. But I went, and our date was different from anything
Id ever experienced. We sat together for hours, talking about the Lord and what
hed done in our lives. God had again sent someone into my life to guide and lead me.
A few months later, about one year after the accident, John and I married. I continued to
work until Air Florida was bought by another company. With Johns support and
encouragement I quit work to go back to school and complete an early childhood education
degree. John and I started a family, and I was able to stay home with the children for
several years before beginning my second career as a teacher.
Sometimes Im vividly reminded of the crash, like when my daughter
Kinsey asked me not to fly to another city when I was asked to speak about my experience.
"Please dont go, Mommy. I dont want you to die in a plane crash!"
"Kinsey," I gently reminded her, "I dont want to
die either, but if God has it in his plans for me, then it is perfect for me. No matter
what the outcome, I have to do what He tells me to do."
I dont know why God saved me from the Potomac that day when
others died, or why He answered my desperate prayers for contact with Him. But I do know
God used compassionate, ordinary people to bring His love to me when I desperately needed
it. In His infinite mercy, He rescued me not once, but twice.
This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of TODAYS CHRISTIAN