What Do You Think About When A Plane is Crashing?


What would you think about if you were in an airplane that was about to crash?

What Runs Through Your Mind As Your Plane Is Crashing?


It’s the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I’m Guy Raz. And on the show today, turning points. Imagine living two totally different lives over the course of one single lifespan – a life before, and a life after. Well, for Ric Elias, the turning point happened in a flash. It was January 15th, 2009. He was on U.S. Airways flight 1549 and the plane was headed right into the Hudson River. Here’s his TED talk.


RIC ELIAS: Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 feet. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. Well, I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who could talk to the flight attendants. So I looked at them right away and they said no problem. We probably hit some birds. The pilot had already turned the plane around and we weren’t that far. You could see Manhattan. Two minutes later, three things happened at the same time. The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That’s usually not the route.


ELIAS: He turns off the engines. Now imagine being on a plane with no sound. And then, he says three words – as unemotional three words as I have ever heard. He says, brace for impact. I didn’t have to talk to the flight attendant anymore.


ELIAS: I could see, in her eyes, that it was terror. Life was over. Now I want to share with you three things I learned about myself that day. I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life. And I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out that I didn’t, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that, later on I came up with a saying, which is, I collect bad wines. ‘Cause if the wine is ready and the person is there, I’m opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency, that purpose has really changed my life. The second thing I learned that day, and this is as we cleared the George Washington Bridge, which was by not a lot – I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret. I’ve lived a good life.

In my own humanity and mistakes, I’ve tried to get better at everything I have tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted and things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It’s not perfect, it’s a lot better. I’ve not had a fight with my wife in two years and it feels great. I no longer try to be right. I choose to be happy. The third thing I learned – and this is as your mental clock starts going 15, 14, 13, you can see the water coming, I’m saying please blow up.

All right, I don’t want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you’ve seen in those documentaries. And as we’re coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It’s almost like we’ve been preparing for it our whole lives. But it was very sad. I didn’t want to go. I love my life. And that sadness really framed in one thought, which is I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up. About a month later, I was in a performance by my daughter, first grader. Not much artistic talent…


ELIAS: …Yet. And I’m bawling. I’m crying like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized, at that point, by connecting those two dots that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad. I was given the gift of a miracle of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently.

I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane – and please don’t, but imagine, and how would you change? What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here for forever? How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them, and more than anything, are you being the best parent you can? Thank you.


RAZ: Ric Elias. More than three and a half million people have watched his TED Talk.

Continue reading…


Key Terms…
  • about to crash ↔ prestes a cair
  • turning points ↔ pontos de viragem
  • over the course of ↔ ao longo de
  • in a flash ↔ num piscar de olhos
  • was headed right into ↔ estava indo direta para
  • as ↔ enquanto
  • clack ↔ estalido
  • unique ↔ único
  • seat ↔ assento
  • flight attendants ↔ aeromoças
  • that far ↔ tão longe
  • lines up ↔ alinha
  • route ↔ rota
  • turns off ↔ desliga
  • brace for impact ↔ segure-se por impacto
  • bucket list ↔ grande lista
  • mend ↔ consertar
  • came up with ↔ inventei
  • saying ↔ provérbio
  • postpone ↔ adiar
  • purpose ↔ propósito
  • cleared ↔ (passar sem tocar)
  • regret ↔ pesar, remorso
  • regretted ↔ lamentou
  • scary ↔ assustador
  • framed ↔ focou, encaixou
  • first grader ↔ aluno da primeira série
  • bawling ↔ berrando (ou chorando muito)
  • connecting those two dots ↔ ligar esses dois pontos
  • goal ↔ objetivo
  • miracle ↔ milagre
  • challenge ↔ desafiar


turning points pontos de viragem
A decisive point at which a significant change or historical event occurs, or at which a decision must be made.
The point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.
Economia, Estado e sociedade estão em uma encruzilhada. ↔Society, politics and the economy are at a turning point.
O que você acha que foi o ponto de virada para a comunidade florescer? ↔What do you think was the turning point for the community to flourish?
over the course of ao longo de
The prolific artist made more than 800 recordings over the course of his career.  
Over the course of millions of years, plant material can be converted into coal.  
was headed right into estava indo direta para
The winds and hail started to turn and headed right for (na direção exata de) Hector
lines up alinha
The computer terminals were lined up in one long row. ↔Os terminais de computador estavam alinhados em uma longa fileira.
Line up for lunch. ↔Formem fila para o almoço.
brace for impact segure-se por impacto
brace for impact
brace for impact
mend consertar
mend one’s fences, to strengthen or reestablish one’s position by conciliation or negotiation.
to try to be friendly again with someone after an argument
came up with inventei
I wonder where you came up with the idea that I’m familiar with robotics and such. ↔De onde será que você tirou essa ideia de que eu entendo de robótica?
postpone adiar
The contest was postponed on account of rain. ↔O torneio foi adiado por causa da chuva.
You may as well postpone your departure. ↔É melhor você adiar sua partida.
purpose propósito
de forma proposital (de propósito) ↔on purpose
Com que finalidade ↔For what purpose?
Isso serve ao fim ↔It answers the purpose.
Não foi por gosto ↔I didn’t do it on purpose.
cleared (passar sem tocar)
Everything was going great, but just as we cleared the trees into the sunlight, there she was.  
regret pesar, remorso
You won’t regret it. ↔Você não o lamentará.
I regret missing the speech. ↔Eu me arrependo de ter perdido o discurso.
When I ask people what they regret most about high school, they nearly all say the same thing: that they wasted so much time. ↔Quando pergunto às pessoas o que elas mais lamentam sobre a escola secundária, quase todos dizem a mesma coisa: que perderam muito tempo.
scary assustador
Eu avisei que ela pode ser dantesca e assustadora! ↔I warned you that she can be daunting and scary!
O borra botas até da sombra tem medo. ↔The scardy cat even fears his own shadow.
Você me deu um baita susto ↔You scared the hell out of me. | You gave me one hell of a scare.
goal objetivo
batendo metas ↔meeting goals

Audio Notes

  • mend ↔ consertar

    ‘mend’ means ‘to fix’. We don’t use it very generally, it’s used for only a few specific things such as fixing fences on a farm. In the article, the expression “mend one’s fences” is used to mean to repair a broken relationship with people.

  • came up with ↔ inventei

    It’s common to say “we need to come up with a good idea, a plan, etc.” (invent, create a new and good idea)

  • cleared ↔ (passar sem tocar)

    To ‘clear’ something is to pass something. If I cleared my exams, I passed all the exams. If I clear a wall, it means I jumped over the wall (and usually, without falling or even touching it). If I’m “in the clear”, it means that I have cleared/passed through everything difficult; it’s behind me, and I’m fine.


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