Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger
Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and the US Airways flight 1549 crew have been making headlines ever since they safely landed a jet with 155 people in the Hudson River. But their first television appearances since last month's crash served as a poignant reminder that the plunge into the icy water was more than some Hollywood fantasy.
"It was the worst, sickening pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the floor feeling I've ever felt in my life. I knew immediately it was very bad," Sullenberger told Katie Couric during his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday. "I knew immediately that this, unlike every other flight I'd had for 42 years, was probably not going to end with the airplane undamaged on the runway."
But Sullenberger calmly credits that lifetime of flying that brought him to that terrible day.
"Yes," Sullenberger said. "I think, in many ways, as it turned out, my entire life up to that moment had been a preparation to handle that particular moment."
As the captain spoke to Couric and the nation, many of the passengers watched from their homes, forced to relive that short three-and-a-half minute flight. "We knew he was doing his job, but to hear it from him. I didn't think I'd get so emotional," Diane Higgins told the New York Daily News after viewing the segment.
About two dozen of the flight's passengers reunited with their heroic captain Monday on CBS' The Early Show. When asked if they would be friends for life, everyone on the set responded with a resounding yes.
"I think all of us share a bond that was forged that day," Sullenberger said. "All of us share the same bond. This was a team effort on the part of the crew, on the part of the passengers who all behaved so admirably throughout, and the first responders. We are all linked by this event."
Reunions continued on Good Morning America as the 1549 crew reconnected with more passengers, many of whom shared their gratitude. "I thought I was going to lose my wife and never get to see my children, said a choked-up Larry Snodgrass."I thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart."
Sully's become a national hero. The crew has been given the keys to New York City. Hundreds owe their lives to the quick thinking and cool-headed nature that prevailed in the midst of a crisis. But Sullenberger doesn't buy into the hype surrounding him and his crew. Rather, he chalks it up to good training.
"The way I describe it is, for 42 years, I had made small, regular deposits of education, training and experience," Sullenberger said during the Early Show segment. "And the experience balance was sufficient that, on Jan. 15, I could make a sudden, large withdrawal."