NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The pilot, crew and passengers who were on board a plane that made an extraordinary landing on the Hudson River were marking the fifth anniversary of that remarkable day Wednesday.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan and 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, the world watched on Jan. 15, 2009, as U.S. Airways Flight 1549 splash-landed into the Hudson River. Everyone survived.
“We were suddenly confronted with something we hadn’t anticipated, had never specifically trained for,” Sullenberger told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.
It a toast to life, the survivors raised their glasses near the spot where the jet splashed down safely, and a the hero captain took his place in history
“We have much to be thankful for,” Sullenberger said.
Ian Wells was a passenger on the flight.
“I can’t believe I was on a plane that landed there, and I live in New York City, and when I see the Hudson I am reminded of it,” he said. “I’m thankful.”
The flight had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport on that 21-degree day, when a flock of geese disabled the engines.
“The pilot said ‘you guys have to brace for a hard impact.’ That’s when everyone, to be honest, started saying prayers,” said survivor Jeff Kolodjay.
Aiming at the ferry terminal, Sullenberger safely glided into a water landing, passing just 900 feet over the George Washington Bridge. He made a picture-perfect landing in the 38-degree waters, Brennan reported.
“I chose the least bad option but I was happy to have it,” Sullenberger told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday. “In this area, since we couldn’t glide as far as a runway, it was the only other place to go that could be made a runway.”
It was after the landing that the second drama began for the 155 passengers and crew. Eileen Shleffer at first jumped into water to swim away.
“The sense of despair that you feel that you have minutes to live is not anything I’d ever felt before,” Shleffer said.
She was pulled out by first responders who arrived alongside in ferries next to the plane less than four minutes after it hit the Hudson.
“Without these people, my children would not have a father. My mom wouldn’t have a son,” said passenger Barry Leonard.
Clay Presley described the moment five years ago that he knew things would be all right.
“Once that door opened and you could see the light come in, you knew that, ‘OK, there’s an opportunity for me to get out of here,’” he said.
It all became known worldwide as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
“Obviously, any type of circumstances could lead to a different result,” Skiles said. “The one thing I can tell you is I am very happy to have been flying with Captain Sullenberger on that day and I could not have had a better colleague on that day or since.”
Sullenberger said the incident was life-changing. Since the crash, he has fought for better flight safety and improved working conditions for pilots.
“It was one of those events, in the first couple of seconds, I knew it was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was going to define my life into before and after,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge of a lifetime that was mine to solve, but it also provided opportunities, like this one, to have a greater voice about things.”
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