The inspiration of 'Nerves of Steel'

What is courage?

Is courage a character trait that is innate? Is it something that some of us have, and some of us don’t?

I don’t have the answer to that, but after reading the book Nerves of Steel, I can say that the crew of Southwest Flight 1380 acted courageously. Their training kicked into place in a situation that would have turned many of us into blubbering idiots. 

One of the airplane’s engines blew apart, hitting a window and fatally injuring one passenger. But there was a plane full of passengers who were alive and frightened, convinced the aircraft was going down. 

Somehow, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults and her co-pilot, Darren Ellisor, got their oxygen masks on, radioed to the nearest control tower, and tried to figure out the best way to land their Boeing 737. 

Nerves of Steel is the story of that harrowing flight, but also the training that Shults had in the U.S. Navy, and working for Southwest Airlines, that led them to land that airplane that day. 

It’s also a story of incredible faith and hard work. I used to work for Southwest Airlines and met many pilots during the time I worked there. Frankly, a few of them were arrogant jerks. But most of them were kind, even to us lowly gate agents. All of them were confident, but I think you need that trait to fly a jet at 30,000 feet. 

Shults writes in her book that standing up to a bully is an act of courage. It also can be something as simple as helping someone with a door or a package. All of those small acts of kindness can add up into something bigger, perhaps even bravery.

Nerves of Steel is an account of an act of heroism, but also the career of a trailblazing female pilot who didn’t accept “no” for an answer when men didn’t want her to fly.

One of the inductees into the Kaufman Sports Hall of Fame, James Henderson, said one coach told him to quit, as well, telling him he was no good. He did, briefly, but another coach convinced him to come back and work harder. I imagine his subsequent coaches at KHS and Abilene Christian University are glad he persevered. 

I hope the examples of Henderson and Shults inspire others, as well.

Thanks for reading.

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