The plane was careening and going down: Chaos filled the cabin with passengers thrown in their seats and flames all around them.
All Helen Young Hayes could do was pray the impossible: that God literally guide the pilots’ hands as they attempted to land a DC-10 with no hydraulic assistance – something that had never been done before. She closed her eyes, focused on the pilots’ hands, and “asked the Lord to give them guidance and wisdom and show them what to do.”
God answered her prayers. “For the first time in aviation history the plane—a plane that was not steerable and had no elevators, so it doesn’t have the ability to go up and down and it does not have breaks and landing gear—a completely unsteerable plane was brought to the runway,” Hayes told CBN News, recalling her harrowing experience after she boarded United Airlines Flight 232 in Denver, bound for Chicago on July 19, 1989.
Thanks to Hayes’ prayers and those of other passengers and crew, 185 people survived the crash-landing of the plane in Sioux City, Iowa.
“I remember every minute of it as vividly as if it were last week,” Hayes told CBN News.
She recalled the pilot telling the passengers that the plane had sustained tail damage and they’re going to attempt an emergency landing. “I’m not gonna kid you folks—it’s gonna be rough,” she recalled the pilot saying.
“The plane was just careening about. I looked up and as I was being thrown around in my seat I saw myself surrounded with flames and for that moment, for the first time, I was afraid,” Hayes said.
“And I thought, ‘Dear God, don’t let me be burned,’ and then the flames passed and suddenly we were somersaulting over and tumbling upside down and then we slid to a stop. All I could hear was the sound of crackling and sizzling and burning,” the businesswoman recalled.
“I could hear passengers moaning and I was hanging upside down and I thought ‘Well, what do I do now?’ because this is not what we had rehearsed. This is not what I expected,” she said.
Hayes said she knew she was on that flight for a reason.
“I was on the plane because, unbeknownst to me, the pilot’s hands needed guidance and so a prayer was put in me that I just prayed,” she said.