CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Survivors of US Airways Flight 1549, known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” arrived in Charlotte Monday afternoon to commemorate the 10th anniversary on Tuesday.
On January 15, 2009, the Charlotte-bound plane took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
Minutes later, a flock of geese hit the plane, forcing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to pull off what is described as one of the greatest feats in aviation history as he guided the plane to a safe landing on the icy Hudson River.
The plane was carrying 150 passengers and five crew members who are now bonded by this day.
“It’s a second family, it really is,” said Barry Leonard, who was flying back home to Charlotte when the plane made the landing.
Monday afternoon, many survivors of that landing took a commemorative flight from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, sitting in their original seat assignments and toasting at the moment of impact at 3:31 p.m.
“It kind of brought back so many memories of 10 years ago,” said Eric Stevenson, a survivor on the flight. “But it was also emotional because we had friends and family, and we were together and we could celebrate.”
On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary, the survivors gathered together for a panel and a champagne toast.
At the luncheon, several spoke on what the miracle meant to them. Then, in a panel, Captain Sullenberger reminded the audience that nobody had ever trained for a flight such as that.
The only training he received for a water landing was reading a few pages in a manual and having a classroom discussion, he said.
At 3:31 p.m., passengers toasted to the exact time they all braced for impact a decade ago.
"I'm just so grateful to be alive, to have this gift of life," Diane Higgins said.
In all, 80 passengers and crew members including Captain Sullenberger were together in Charlotte to celebrate. They came to Charlotte to visit the plane, rebuilt and stationed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
Looking back on that cold January day a decade later, Laurie Crane, a survivor from Charlotte, remembers the moments just before the landing and holding hands with a passenger next to her as they braced for what came next.
"I was up to my neck in water, and I looked down at the water,” Crane added, “And I said, 'God I'm not supposed to die this way.’”
Since January 15, 2009, passengers have lived to tell their stories and accounts of that day -- a privilege they don’t take for granted.
"It really was God putting Sully on that flight and everyone else, and Him saving me from the Hudson River,” Crane said, “I'm just so thankful to be alive 10 years later."