GREER — Fred Berretta decided to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy after reading the words of St. Faustina Kowalska during the three o’clock hour Jan. 14. He had no idea how the revelation of God’s mercy would change his life just 24 hours later.
Berretta is one of 155 survivors of US Airways Flight 1549, the commercial Airbus 320 that crashed into the Hudson River in New York City at 3:31 p.m. on Jan. 15.
From his seat in 16A, the private pilot and managing director at a major financial services institution in Charlotte, N.C., heard a sound and looked out the window. He was able to see that the left engine was no longer operational. Then he heard another unfamiliar sound — the right engine giving out. As the US Airways pilot made a slow left hand turn, Berretta thought the plane was heading back to LaGuardia for an emergency landing.
He told the harrowing story of what the media dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson” at the quarterly Catholic business breakfast hosted by Catholic radio in South Carolina May 20.
Berretta said he believes the survival of all on board wasn’t the only miracle that day.
“I truly believe that God had been preparing me for this event,” he said. “I made a last minute decision to go to New York. I had some spare time that led me to saying the chaplet. The next morning, I was able to stop by St. Patrick’s and attend Mass. I had a few minutes before heading to the airport to pick up the book, ‘The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist,’ ” Berretta told the crowd of approximately 70 people.
During the end of 2008 and early in 2009, Berretta said he made a concerted effort to improve his spiritual life. A cradle Catholic, he said his relationship with faith is one that survived periods of waning interest and peaks of intensity.
“I was recently inspired when I read a story about a woman who prayed the rosary for 12 hours, and survived a terrorist attack when there was no way she should have,” he said.
Two weeks after Berretta started praying a daily rosary, and 24 hours after he prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, he was in the plane that crashed in the Hudson River.
“The pilot came on the intercom and said, ‘Brace for impact.’ I thought to myself, ‘What are the odds of surviving this?’ ”
Over the following 30 seconds, many thoughts passed through Berretta’s mind, he said. Feelings of dread and sadness quickly vanished when he thought of the chaplet.
“I recalled the words I had read the day before, that nothing is refused in the three o-clock hour.” He said he distinctly remembered looking at his watch and noting the time at 3:30 p.m.
In less than a minute, the plane would be in the water.
Berretta said he clung to hope as he thought about the picture of Christ with a hand on his heart that emits rays of blood and water, and the other hand raised in greeting as if beckoning the viewer.
It was at that moment, Berretta said, that he accepted God’s control over his life, and that if it was God’s will, he was ready.
“With God’s help, I was able to accept the fact that this might be his decision for me. And I was at peace,” he said.
Over the next few seconds, the plane crashed and the evacuation began.
The rest, of course, is history. The life lesson Berretta took away, however, was to be prepared for the future.
“I think there are two messages I’ve taken away from this experience: decision-making and execution. Every decision we make is so important. The here and now is important, but it’s not the end game,” he said.
“When we execute our decisions, we must ask if we are doing our best. Are we using our talents and abilities the way God wants us to use them? When we do those two things, with God’s help, miracles happen,” Berretta said.
Submitted by Catherine Romaine Henderson who works with Catholic radio.