A Catholic Faces Eternity on Flight 1549
Below is a letter from Fred Berretta, a "Joe Catholic" who was on the flight that recently went down in the Hudson. He is writing to Vinny Flynn who wrote 7 Secrets of the Eucharist which he had just been reading as he waited to board the flight. Let's hear how he experienced facing death and eternity as a Catholic.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Subject: Passenger of Flight 1549
I sincerely hope this email finds its way to you. I was a passenger on flight 1549 and my name is Fred Berretta. You might have caught a glimpse of me or heard me on CNN or Fox the night of the crash. I interviewed with Lou Dobbs, Wolf Blitzer and Bill O'Reilly and discussed the crash that night.
I had been on a one day business trip to NY and sat in seat 16A just behind the left engine. My trip was a last minute decision the day before. I finished my meetings early on Thursday and realized I had time to attend the 12 noon mass at St. Patrick Cathedral. It was unusual for me to have the extra time, but that day I did. After Mass, I stopped by the gift shop just across from the cathedral and purchased your book, "7 Secrets of the Eucharist." As I waited to board flight 1549 bound for Charlotte, where I live, I began reading your book. I continued reading while we taxied until just after take off.
I think I got through about half of it and then decided to close my eyes and reflect on the incredible insights your book gave me regarding the Eucharist. We were climbing out and just a minute or so into the flight I heard the impact of the bird strikes and then the explosion in the left engine. I could see it on fire and the cabin began to smell like jet fuel. As a private pilot, once I realized the second engine was also not functioning, things became quite tense.
While I had known about and prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet years before, I had not really focused on it in quite a long time. Ironically, I had prayed the chaplet the day before at 3 pm. I had forgotten that in my briefcase I had long kept a copy of a booklet of the Divine Mercy chaplet which had excerpts from St. Faustina's diary. When I arrived in NY, I had some time at my hotel and decided to clean out my briefcase, something long overdue. I found the Divine Mercy booklet, prayed the chaplet, and read some of the words of Jesus to Faustina.
Before we hit the water, I thought about the words Jesus said, that nothing would be refused if asked for during the hour of mercy.* I really thought there was a good chance myself and others would die that day, but I asked God to be merciful to us, I prayed the Lord' prayer and a Hail Mary. I then prayed to St. Michael, and we impacted the water. The odds were not with us that day, but God clearly was. I believe it is the only jet airliner to successfully ditch in the water without fatalities in the history of aviation.
I just want you to know that your book gave me comfort as we were going down, and for that I am grateful. I know a lot of people prayed on that plane, and I believe the Miracle on the Hudson was a testament to the mercy of God, and a sign of hope.
Take care and may God continue to bless your ministry and all you do to spread the message of Divine Mercy and the wonders of Holy Communion.
*Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River during the 3 o'clock hour (at about 3:30 pm), which Christ told St. Faustina is "the hour of great mercy." It was during this hour that His heart was pierced by a lance, and blood and water gushed forth as a fountain of mercy for the world. "In this hour," He told her, "I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion." (Diary of Saint Faustina, #1182, 1320.)