Lifted by prayer

His F-4 jet tumbling out of the sky over Hanoi, an Air Force pilot gains control at 800 feet.

When Us Air Force Pilot John Fairfield started his bombing run over a Hanoi airfield on October 24, 1972—a date he's gratefully committed to memory—he could see the North Vietnamese firing surface-to-air-missiles at him. In more than 100 similar dangerous flights, he believed it was the calm of prayer that kept him out of the clutches of fear and, in turn, safely out of reach of enemy fire.

But on that October day in the smoke-filled sky, the force of an exploding shell flipped his F-4 fighter jet into a flat spin—upside down and horizontally turning.

"My backseater was screaming, 'We're out of control. We're getting out!' " recalls Fairfield. "I knew he was going to eject me, and I wanted no part of that. I had to tell him forcefully, 'No, don't do it. We'll be all right ... Father, lift me up!' "

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Protected by thought
November 12, 2001

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