Return to Transcripts main page


President Bush Delivers Farewell Address; Airliner Plunges Into Hudson River

Aired January 15, 2009 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush is set to begin his historic farewell speech in just a moment. We are going to have it all.

But, first, breaking news tonight, as you have probably seen by now these astonishing images. Of course, it all began late this afternoon, a U.S. Airways Airbus jetliner with 155 on board, forced to make an emergency water landing on the Hudson River just a few blocks from where we are here in New York.

Tonight, the miracle survival stories of Flight 1549, that an A- 320 jet headed from La Guardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, had just taken off when it ran into trouble. It landed in the river. Minutes later, 150 passengers, a crew of five raced to climb out of the sinking aircraft. Commuter ferries and rescue boats rushed them to shore. There were some injuries, but everyone survived this accident.

Tonight, we are hearing incredible tales, as survivors describe the final moments and offer their praise for the pilot. A source tells CNN the pilot radioed just ahead -- or just after takeoff, rather, that birds had been sucked into at least one of the engines, and then both engines reportedly shut down, forcing the pilot to ditch. We're going to have much more on this.

But let's go to Wolf Blitzer right now in Washington for the president's farewell address moments from now -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He's about to walk in, Campbell, into the East Room of the White House.

This will be his final appearance, as president of the United States, formally addressing the American people. He's going to look back, but also look ahead.



Fellow citizens, for eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence, a time set apart.

Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation.

Five days from now, the world will witness the vitality of American democracy. In a tradition dating back to our founding, the presidency will pass to a successor chosen by you, the American people. Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land.

This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.

Tonight, I am filled with gratitude to Vice President Cheney and members of the administration; to Laura, who brought joy to this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna; to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime.

And above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.

This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor.

I remember standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center three days later, surrounded by rescuers who had been working around the clock. I remember talking to brave souls who charged through smoke- filled corridors at the Pentagon and to husbands and wives whose loved ones became heroes aboard Flight 93.

I remember Arlene Howard, who gave me her fallen son's police shield as a reminder of all that was lost. And I still carry his badge.

As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.

Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots.

And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school.

Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States. There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions, but there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil day and night to keep us safe -- law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States armed forces.

Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude.

And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight, there has been no higher honor than serving as your commander in chief.

The battles waged by our troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience, and marks unbelievers for murder.

The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.

This is the belief that gave birth to our nation. And in the long run, advancing this belief is the only practical way to protect our citizens.

When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism.

So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We are standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic, born alone in liberty, is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.

For eight years, we have also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes.

The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith- based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America's air, water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members, like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted. All Americans are in this together. And together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth. We will show the world once again the resilience of America's free enterprise system.

Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced Setbacks and there are things I would do differently, if given the chance.

Yet, I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.

The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.

While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient and determined to strike again.

America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.

At the same time, we just continue to engage the world with confidence and clear purpose. In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism.

Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.

As we address these challenges, and others we cannot foresee tonight, America must maintain our moral clarity.

I have often spoken to you about good and evil and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world and between the two, there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.

Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense and to advance the cause of peace.

President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism.

America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead. I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom.

This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America's character all around us, and Laura and I have invited some of them to join us in the White House this evening.

We see America's character in Dr. Tony Recasner, a principal who opened a new charter school from the ruins of Hurricane Katrina. We see it in Julio Medina, a former inmate who leads a faith-based program to help prisoners returning to society. We see it in Staff Sergeant Aubrey McDade, who charged into an ambush in Iraq and rescued three of his fellow Marines.

We see America's character in Bill Krissoff, a surgeon from California. His son Nathan, a Marine, gave his life in Iraq. When I met Dr. Krissoff and his family, he delivered some surprising news. He told me he wanted to join the Navy Medical Corps in honor of his son.

This good man was 60 years old, 18 years above the age limit. But his petition for a waiver was granted, and for the past year he has trained in battlefield medicine.

Lieutenant Commander Krissoff could not be here tonight, because he will soon deploy to Iraq, where he will help save America's wounded warriors and uphold the legacy of his fallen son.

In citizens like these we see the best of our country, resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there is more ahead.

But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.

It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your president. There have been good days and tough days. But every day, I have been inspired by the greatness of our country and uplifted by the goodness of our people.

I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any Other -- citizen of the United States of America.

And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time, good night. May God bless this house and our next president. And may God bless you and our wonderful country.

Thank you.


BLITZER: In the East Room in the White House, the president of the United States saying goodbye to the American people in a formal address, a televised address, this the last time he will do so as president of the United States.

He did a series of exit interviews. He had a full-scale news conference earlier in the week, but tonight was his moment to speak directly to the American people and say thank you, acknowledging, yes, there were setbacks, but insisting he did the best that he could and he was ready to move on.

Campbell Brown, there's no doubt that he's going to be taking a very low profile as of next Tuesday. We're not going to be seeing him a lot, not going to be hearing from him a lot. At least that's what he said for the time being. This was his chance to formally say goodbye.

BROWN: It was indeed, Wolf.

And I want to get your impressions and also bring in our national correspondent, John King, who, of course, covered the White House during President Bush's first term.

But, Wolf, let me ask you first. This is the final chapter, as you said, of his long goodbye. What were your impressions tonight, watching him?

BLITZER: I thought he was gracious in welcoming a new president of the United States. He's been gracious throughout these last several weeks, since the election, suggesting this is truly a historic moment for the United States, an African-American about to be sworn in as president of the United States.

And he went about as far as he wants to go, certainly, as he can in acknowledging mistakes, acknowledging things didn't always go well, although insisting the major point of defense on his behalf, that, since 9/11, there hasn't been a major terror attack on the U.S. homeland. And, for that, he's not only grateful, but he seems to be rather proud as well.

BROWN: And, John, of course, you covered this president for almost a decade. What was your reaction as he said goodbye tonight?


You covered him as well. And he is a president who has become known to many Americans as almost a black-and-white figure. He said it himself. Good and evil is how he casts things. Some people don't like. He was the president who said dead or alive. He was the president who said, bring it on.

People have often seen him in the biggest battles of the presidency as a black and white, with me or against me kind of guy, but he's a lot more complicated than that.

And, yes, the economic collapse, Katrina, Iraq are stains on his legacy at the moment. He thinks history will judge him more kindly, but, without a doubt, he leaves with those stains on his legacy. But he also mentioned the program to fight AIDS in Africa. Any liberal will tell you it has been a dramatic success.

He believes he has made a decent impact on public schools here in the United States. And he is a gentleman, to follow up on Wolf's point. Whatever you think of him politically, he is a gentleman. And his tribute to Barack Obama was genuine.

And he loves that house, Campbell, and you know it. When he walks the White House -- remember, he was there when his dad was vice president in the Reagan days, when his dad was president. He views that house as a living treasure and a living museum, and he is going to very much miss it.


Wolf Blitzer for us, John King as well, thanks very much, guys.

And we should also mention to our viewers, be sure to watch the premiere of "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING" every Sunday morning, four hours of news and politics, from 9:00 to 1:00 Eastern time.

We have breaking news tonight, as you probably know, a terrifying U.S. Airways accident here in New York City. A jet with 155 people aboard ditched into the Hudson River. Everyone survived. How did the pilot do it? His story may be the most amazing of all. Listen to what he did after everyone got out of the plane.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I had a long conversation with the pilot. He walked the plane twice after everybody else was off and tried to verify that there was nobody else on board and assures us there were not.

I also talked to a passenger, who said he was the last one up the aisle and that he made sure there was nobody behind him.


BROWN: We're going to have complete live coverage on the way. Stay with us.



ALBERTO PANERO, PASSENGER: Within a couple of minutes, all of a sudden, you just heard a loud bang. And the plane shook a bit.

And, immediately, the -- you know, the -- you could smell like smoke or like fire. And, immediately, the plane basically just started turning in another direction. Although it didn't seem like it was out of control, we knew something was going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: And you're going to be hearing from that man. He's sitting with me now. He will be live with us in just a few moments, as we bring you the very latest on this breaking news tonight, passengers like that one counting their blessings, calling the pilot a hero, after this spectacular emergency landing on the water just feet from Midtown Manhattan.

Here's the very latest, what we know tonight about U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

Bullet point number one from what's being called a miracle on the Hudson, everybody made it. Despite bone-chilling temperatures, all 150 passengers and five crew members survived when the A-320 jet headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, had to ditch just after takeoff from La Guardia Airport.

At least 15 people were treated at hospitals, dozens treated at the scene, hypothermia a serious threat to passengers who were out in the open, facing 32-degree water, and 20-degree air temperatures in the minutes after impact.

A New Jersey State Police official tells CNN the pilot radioed an emergency seconds after takeoff because of a bird strike. Birds apparently were sucked into at least one engine. Witnesses on the ground described hearing what sounded like a sonic boom. Both engines quickly shut down.

The pilot asked for an emergency landing in a small airport in New Jersey just a few miles away. But the plane couldn't make it there. According to the FAA, the jet ditched in the Hudson only five to six minutes after takeoff.

Right now, the plane is resting in the water. It's tied to a pier not far from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, a few miles from where the jet came down at the one of the Hudson River's narrowest points. Construction workers at a nearby high-rise say they're amazed the pilot managed to avoid losing control and hitting one of the buildings.

David Mattingly in Battery Park for us tonight at the very lower tip of Manhattan, he's got all the details on the miracle, because it truly is a miracle, David, of U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is. There's no other way to describe it.

The more we learn about this disaster, the more it seems utterly improbable that we're able to stand here and tell you that everyone got out alive. But that is exactly what happened, everyone calling this the miracle on the Hudson.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Passengers heard an explosion or blast from the engine, and then flames. "Brace for impact," that was the captain's terrifying warning, his on only warning moments before this U.S. Airways jet hit the river.

PANERO, PASSENGER: And, all of a sudden, you just heard a loud bang. And the plane shook a bit. And, immediately, the -- you know, the -- you could smell like smoke or like fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The captain came on and said, we're going to dump this plane. Brace for impact, and probably brace pretty hard. And that's what we did. And kudos to him, man. He did a great job. So, we dumped it. And the plane started filling with water really quick. And everyone was just super cool.

QUESTION: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the luck of God.

MATTINGLY: The image surreal and chilling, a gleaming Airbus 320 resting on the surface, drifting with the current, and slowly sinking.

For the 155 people inside, there were prayers and there was fear, at first, some panic.

PANERO: There was a couple of people who just kind of took charge and just started yelling to calm down and just to get everybody out. And once -- once, I think, people realized that we were going to be OK, everybody kind of calmed down and just tried to get outside of the boat.

MATTINGLY: Here's what we know. According to the FAA, Flight 1549, bound for Charlotte, took off at 3:26 p.m. from runway number four at La Guardia Airport.

Aviation sources tell CNN that, three to four minutes later, the pilot reported one or more birds struck the plane, causing engine failure. The crew attempted to fly back to an airport, but decided to ditch the plane in the Hudson River. The crippled jet glided into the 32-degree water just off the west side of Manhattan.

BEN VONKLEMPERER, EYEWITNESS: I'm in an office building on the 25th floor. A short time ago, I saw a -- what looked to be a very small commercial airplane flying south along the Hudson River, making what appeared to be a very gradual landing. I then saw the plane hit the water. It made a big splash.

MATTINGLY: Ferries rushed to rescue the victims, who stood on the wings waiting to be rescued or were seated in life rafts that were inflated after impact.

Passengers credit the pilots for getting everyone out alive. The captain, Chelsey Sullenberger, is a 29-year veteran with U.S. Airways. He's also a certified glider instructor.

In video and CNN I-Reports, an incredible scene...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. MATTINGLY: ... and an unbelievable ending to what some are calling a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like a million bucks, man.



BROWN: I bet he does.

David, give us the very latest on the survivors, because we do know that there were a number of injuries. What were the extent of many of these injuries?

MATTINGLY: Right now, what we have heard, the worst injury we have heard about was to one of the flight attendants, that flight attendant having a laceration on her leg.

There were other cases of hypothermia, but, at this point, that was the worst injury we have heard about. And, if you can believe this, about third of that 155 people that were on that plane didn't have to go to the hospital at all. Some of them managed to get out of this wreck without even getting wet, if you can possibly believe that.

BROWN: David Mattingly for us tonight -- David, thanks very much.

So many unforgettable stories coming from what could have been this incredible tragedy.

A few minutes ago, you heard the voice of one of the survivors of flight 1549, Alberto Panero. He is with me right now, along with one of the very first responders, Brittany Catanzaro, a ferry captain for New York Waterway. And her boat was one of the very first on the scene. She helped rescue 24 people.

And, boy, are we happy to see you both here right now.

PANERO: Yes, absolutely.

BROWN: How you feeling?

PANERO: I have to say I'm just happy to be alive. I feel like a million bucks, like I'm blessed, like nothing matters, except that I'm alive.


BROWN: You have both got incredible stories we're about to hear.

Alberto, you start us off, though. You're on the plane. The plane takes off. Start at that moment when you know something's not right. (CROSSTALK)

PANERO: Well, to be honest with you, I was kind of dazing out. And I remember kind of leaning on the window and feeling the plane shake, and I heard a loud noise.

And we immediately kind of smelled, you know, a little bit of smoke and kind of see the smoke coming into the cabin a little bit. But it seemed like we were OK. It seemed like the left engine was gone, but maybe the right side, I figured, was OK, and they were just going to take us back. And...


BROWN: How were people on the plane doing? Were people starting to panic a little bit or...


BROWN: ... everybody was pretty calm?

PANERO: Yes, it was a mix. No one really flipped out completely, but there were some people that you could tell were concerned, and a little bit of yelling here and there.

But they didn't really communicate to us what was going on. So, everybody thought everything was OK. Once the pilot made a U-turn and calmly said brace for impact, I think that's when people kind of...

BROWN: He calmly said, brace for impact, yes.

PANERO: Yes, yes, calmly said, brace for impact.

I think that's when everybody knew that, you know, something was going to happen. And you could see the plane. I was on the window, so I could see the water just getting bigger and closer. And, you know, it -- it was inevitable that we were going to hit.

BROWN: I have to ask you this, because none of us can imagine what that moment is like, you know?

PANERO: Right.

BROWN: And just tell us as best you can describe it what it feels like when you think, this might be it.

PANERO: Well, it was kind of like having two different voices. One was telling me, you know, oh, my God, you're probably going to die, this is it, and then the other one trying to calm myself down, saying, hey, listen, it's going to be OK somehow.

But I just thought about my family back at home and my friends. And I have a -- I'm a young guy. I have a lot of things going on. I just figured that I was going to be one of those stories that, I have everything in front of me, and the big road to travel, and I just end up dead. BROWN: So, what did it feel like, impact? I mean...

PANERO: It felt like a car crash. It felt just like the -- frontwards, backwards.

And as soon as we hit, I was expecting an explosion. I was expecting something to come over and kill me, to be honest with you, anything, I don't know what. But you just kind of braced and figured something was going to kill me. And, when that didn't happen, it was a relief. And then the next thing, you just see the water getting really high up on the window and it was like, OK, we need to get out right now.

BROWN: And, so, at this stage, were people freaking out? I'm guessing there was some panic, at least, but...

PANERO: Yes, to be honest with you, most of the time, it was pretty quiet, except for kind of people bursting a little bit into yells and kind of prayers or tears. It was kind of mixed.

But, for the most part it was quiet. And, even afterwards, there was a couple people just saying, OK, stay calm, go for the exit, go for the exit, you know, grabbing the seat cushions and stuff like that.

So, it was -- it was pretty intense. But, to be honest with you, people within the plane kind of kept their composure, you know, relatively to what was going on and everybody kind of was making sure that everybody was getting out. You know, they're trying to help. Everybody was kind of trying to help each other out, so that was good to see. Yes.

BROWN: Now stand by, everybody. When we come back, you're going to pick up the story...


BROWN: ... about what happened because you have another extraordinary story about what happened when you got out on the raft.


BROWN: You're a doctor in training.


BROWN: And you actually treated some of the people out there, too. And we're also going to hear from Brittany. Stay with us. A lot more ahead, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta who's going to be here to talk us through the dangers that so many of these passengers face after they hit the water.

And as if anybody wasn't thinking, what was it like? The six minutes of terror leading up to a life-saving decision. We're going to retrace the steps of Flight 1549, too, as it barely avoided tragedy. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


VOICE OF KEVIN JOHNS, EYEWITNESS: And I saw this aircraft, very, very low, and I said that guy's low. And I looked up, and there were flames coming out of the number one engine.


BROWN: Dozens of eyewitnesses all over the west side of Manhattan watching in horror this afternoon as they saw the stricken US Airways Flight 1549 glide into the frigid waters of the Hudson River.

And back with me right now, Alberto Panero, who is on the plane, and Brittany Catanzaro, a ferry captain for New York Waterway. Her boat was one of the very first on the scene. She helped rescue 24 people. They're sharing their stories with us.

And where we left off, Alberto, you were walking us through getting off the plane. And tell us what happened because there were, I guess, lifeboats or -- that were part of the plane that --

PANERO: Right. Well, initially, you know, there was kind of a holdup, you know, people trying to get out of the seats and going in. My first exit was where the wing was. And when I got out there, not only did I notice that, you know, I was sinking, I started feeling pretty cold water on my feet.

I looked in front of me there was a raft that seemed to have, you know, spaces open. So I looked back in the cabin, it was open, so I just made a run for it and I jumped on to the raft. Once I did that, I figured, you know, unless something terribly goes wrong, I'm OK.

BROWN: OK. Right.

PANERO: And that's when you know we started assessing if people were OK within, and I just heard a lady start yelling, "I'm hurt, I'm hurt."

BROWN: And this is one of the flight attendants, right?

PANERO: I didn't know that at the time. I learned that later. So, you know, I just tried to calm her down. I assessed she had a big laceration on her distal leg.

BROWN: And let me just remind people, too...


BROWN: ... you just graduated from medical school.

PANERO: I'm about to graduate in May of this year.

BROWN: OK. PANERO: So once I did that, I tried to rack up as many of those seat cushions as possible since, you know, we were floating already and I elevated her leg as much as possible. I assessed to see if she had a pulse. She was kind of bleeding a lot, so I applied a tourniquet on her femoral artery and also where the wound was at.

I didn't see, you know, really any bone sticking out, so I figured that part of it was, you know, at least OK. And she just kept asking me, "Am I going to be OK? Am I going to be OK?" And you know, all I could say was yes.

BROWN: I hope so.

PANERO: You just -- you just survived the plane crash. Of course, you're going to be OK, even if your leg is cut off. I didn't say that.

BROWN: Well, I mean -- yes, to end your day that way at least.

PANERO: Yes. Exactly.

BROWN: So let me turn to Brittany. I mean, you see this on TV, right? I mean, how did you first know what was happening.

BRITTANY CATANZARO, CAPTAIN, NEW YORK WATERWAY: I was doing my normal commute. And I just had left North Hoboken going Pier 79, dropped my passengers off. And I'm departing Pier 79 and there's two -- there's two piers you don't see southbound or northbound traffic. So I slowed down before I came out and when I looked to my right, I saw a plane in the water. I had to double-take that.

And when I looked again, I saw it. I called up another captain, which he was on his way there already. I was the second boat that was there. And I got my crew, I notified my crew.

I told them start getting their life jackets on, get life jackets on the deck. They've thrown some on the water. We dropped down our cradle, and we just got to go over there.

BROWN: So you saw it like literally seconds after it happened.


BROWN: So what happened when you got out there?

CATANZARO: When we got out there, we saw people sitting on the wing, like standing on the wing. There were people in rafts. There was a couple people in the water.

Like I said, I was taking a boat there, so there were people getting out of the water already by the first boat with my colleague, Dan Lombardi (ph). So once I got there, my crew just went right to work, started pulling out people. Just pulling out people.

BROWN: And what kind of state were people in emotionally and physically or both? CATANZARO: Some people felt like a sigh of relief. Some people were crying. Some people are like -- so it was nerve wracking.

BROWN: So let me ask you both, I mean, Brittany, just what an extraordinary day. I mean, how did you feel especially when we finally got word late this afternoon that everybody had survived that plane crash?

CATANZARO: I felt a big relief -- a big relief. I was even -- I was telling my crew, even if we pulled out one person, that was one more person that we saved. And to pull out 24 people, and that's 24 more people going home too.

BROWN: Did you ever even for a second hesitate to go toward that plane? I mean, you don't know what could have happened. It could have exploded.

CATANZARO: Not for a second.

BROWN: There was -- I mean, there could have been a fire. No.

CATANZARO: Not for a second.

BROWN: Did it even occur to you?

CATANZARO: I wasn't -- it occurred to me, you know, but there's too many people that water will get them instantly and --

BROWN: Let me ask you, Alberto, we keep hearing people talk about the pilot. I mean, what an extraordinary thing he pulled off. I mean --

PANERO: Yes. You know, when he came on and said that announcement so calmly and cold in such a cold voice, I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure what he was thinking either. But the fact that he, you know, we owe him all of our lives.

BROWN: Which, to let people know, that's the picture of the pilot we just had up on the screen right there.

PANERO: Yes. You know, if it wasn't for him, of course, we wouldn't be here right now, and you know, we would all have been those people being, instead of the miracle, it would have been the tragedy on the Hudson River.

BROWN: What did your family say when you got them on the phone?

PANERO: Oh, I mean, at first they didn't know what was going on because they hadn't seen it. So the first person I called was my mom. And she was able, you know, to kind of, I guess, hold herself together somehow because I told her I was OK. I'm like, I'm in the water. The plane crashed but I'm OK. I'm going to be alive.

And, you know, word spread pretty quick. My buddies at Orange County (ph) Record State sent out a post and on the blog and just told all my friends that I was OK right away. So that was I think kind of helped everybody settle in.

BROWN: What a day you've both had. Alberto...


BROWN: ... safe travels getting home to Florida.

PANERO: Thank you. Thank you.

BROWN: After all of this. And Brittany, congratulations to you.

CATANZARO: Thank you.

BROWN: Really, an extraordinary act of bravery today from both of you. Really amazing to have you here. Thanks so much.

PANERO: Thank you.

CATANZARO: Thank you for having us.

BROWN: When we come back, we're going to talk about the medical and psychological aftershocks of going through an ordeal like this. We'll be joined next also by our own doctor, Sanjay Gupta. Stay with us.



PASSENGER OF DOWNED FLIGHT ON THE PHONE: At first there was a little bit of a panic, but there was a couple of people who just kind of took charge and just started yelling to calm down, and, you know, just to get everybody out. And once I think people realized that we were going to be OK, everybody kind of called down and just tried to get outside to the boat and, you know, get to safety.


BROWN: And everybody did get to safety. That is our breaking news tonight. All 155 people aboard a US Airways jet survived after the plane ditched in the Hudson River in New York City this afternoon.

You can bet that everyone on the jet got very scared and then many of them got very wet on a dangerously cold day. The air temperature was 20 degrees in the water, was officially freezing, 32 degrees. Early reports from hospitals tell of some passengers being treated for hypothermia. These pictures taken moments after the plane went down show some of the plane's passengers sitting on an emergency slide that also serves as a life raft.

Many of the passengers appear to be standing on the jet's wings after going out the emergency exits. A severe shock to the system, even for those who survived without a scratch. And we want to talk about that now.

We're going to bring in chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of course, a certified medical investigator. Also with us, Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist who teaches at Weill-Cornell School of Medicine here in New York.

And, Sanjay, let me start with you. A lot of these passengers were exposed to some really frigid waters today. The temperature in the Hudson as we mentioned just about freezing in the Hudson. Hypothermia definitely one of the concerns being addressed right now, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it can set in right away. When the water is that cold, the process of hypothermia starts right away. And I was sort of thinking about it, if someone had been exposed to water that cold at the beginning of your show tonight, for example, Campbell, by now, within this relatively short amount of time, they would be suffering some of the most profound effects of hypothermia. Unconsciousness, starting to develop organ failure and be in real dire straits.

What a person experiences, I mean, they may start to feel a little sluggish, fatigued, not able to think clearly and start to eventually drift off. But I want to show you I think a little bit about what happens inside the body as well. Take a look at this animation, Campbell.

The body starts to go into triage mode. The heart and the brain, sort of the most important, blood is shifted there and away from everywhere else, so the body starts to get really cold, starts to turn blue, as you see there, because you're simply not getting enough blood flow. So as organs start to fail, there's different problems.

But if you zoom into the cellular level and actually take a look at the blood stream specifically, here come the red blood cells. As it gets colder and colder, that blood flow starts to shut down and eventually stops altogether. That is the problem. That is the real problem. That's what happens in someone who's suffering profound hypothermia.

Luckily, it doesn't sound like anyone had some of the most profound effects of hypothermia from what we're hearing, but this can happen very quickly, Campbell.

BROWN: And, Sanjay, I mean, they also experienced trauma, you know, when that plane hit the water. What other kind of medical conditions are doctors likely looking at, and treating of those passengers who were taken in?

GUPTA: You know, that was my first thought when I heard about this today was you have a plane, what I understood was going about 176 miles an hour when it hit the water. My guess is that it had some period of time to decelerate as opposed to decelerating all of a sudden. Because, as you're pointing out, I think, it could decelerate or stop all of a sudden. You subject your body to all sorts of forces.

Your blood vessels within your chest can have a little stretch on them. Your spinal cord can have stretch on them. Your brain can have a significant pull on it as well. These are the types of injuries that you see in high-speed car accidents, which are obviously much slower than 176 miles an hour. The body is just not designed to be able to take an acceleration and deceleration that quickly.

My guess is what's interesting, Campbell, to watch some of this video, is that doctors or health care personnel at the scene got to make a pretty good decision if someone's OK at the time and if they're not going to develop any problems later on. They may feel fine right now, but making sure they're not going to develop any physical problems later on.

But it's good news. I think the plane probably was able to decelerate over a little bit of space in time and they're letting people go home, as you've been talking about.

BROWN: All right. Sanjay, let me turn to Gail now.

And, Gail, clearly this is a traumatic experience for the passengers. Talk about what they're likely experiencing psychologically.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, many people have an apprehension about flying and some people actually have a phobia flying. That's actually one of the most common phobias. So for many people, this is their worst nightmare. And so people in that plane were probably thinking, I'm going to die. And that is a trauma all by itself.

So there are going to be a lot of people who have symptoms, despite their physical condition being fine, they're going to have symptoms now coming out. They're going to acutely be anxious, panicky. They might have some flashbacks. They might have difficulty sleeping, feel irritable, and a certain percentage of those people are going to go on to development post-traumatic stress disorder.

So they're going to have amplification of those symptoms. It will go on for months, and it will probably require treatment.

BROWN: Well, what kind of treatment? And let me ask you also, because Alberto, one of the survivors was here just a moment ago, and he said to me, I feel like I've got to get on a plane and fly home tomorrow because if I don't, I may never again.


BROWN: I mean, is that a feeling that would be pretty common?

SALTZ: You know what? There are going to be some people who are never going to get on a plane again especially if they don't get treatment. And there are going to be a lot of people who were there, who are going to have an intense fear of flying. One way to overcome it is get back on that horse.

There are going to be people who are watching this, by the way, who are also going to develop a fear of flying and also may have to seek treatment. But basically treatment is absolutely attainable. So for post-traumatic stress disorder, it's psychotherapy. It can also be medication for individual symptoms, like for sleep and depression and so on.

BROWN: Right.

SALTZ: But PTSD may not resolve. The fear of flying treatment options are better, cognitive behavioral therapy.

BROWN: Right.

SALTZ: And actually, there's a new treatment, virtual reality therapy, where you put on a headset so it's simulated like you're on the plane and you get the therapy at the same time.


SALTZ: In eight to 10 sessions, you can actually be treated.

BROWN: All right. Gail Saltz, interesting stuff. Gail, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

SALTZ: No problem.

BROWN: And Sanjay a moment ago, we appreciate Sanjay on this.

The plane was in the air for only a few minutes, as we mentioned. When we come back, Tom Foreman is going to show us exactly where it went, take us through the trip that the 155 people on US Airways Flight 1549 will never forget. Stay with us.


BROWN: It started as a completely routine flight from New York's LaGuardia airport headed to Charlotte, North Carolina. Then just minutes after takeoff came those chilling words from the pilot, "prepare for impact."

Tom Foreman has plotted the plane's flight during those very few minutes. Tom, take us through it.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, let's look at the flight itself in general. This is what it looked like in general.

They took off here, they came up. They got into trouble, made this big turn and they headed west out over toward the Hudson, and then they turned south, and they headed back down where they headed for the water. But an awful lot of things were happening during that time. What I want to do now is back off and deconstruct all the events that were happening in this time.

First of all, let's fly in here to New York and get you oriented to things. This is Manhattan Island down here. Many of you have been here to visit. The crash site over here.

Here's LaGuardia airport and this is where it started, on runway four at 3:26. This plane was lined up down at the end and it was taking off. Would have been doing anywhere from 170 to 200 miles an hour and it took off at a normal climb. Getting up here, normal flight. But then some time, some time between 3:26 and 3:20, based on the witnesses, that's when they believe these birds came in and struck at least one of the engines.

People talk about hearing a noise from the left engine, but the right engine also seemed to developed serious problems. And then you can see what happens. This point right here where it's light over here and dark over here, was the highest point of the entire flight. Only about 3,000 feet in the air, maybe a little bit more. And from here, they're descending.

They came over here. And now, look, they've turned south trying to get back to the airport. That's what everybody said. But look what's below them, all sorts of houses. This is Yonkers up here, the west side of New York up here. So at some point, they decide we cannot get back to the airport. They head out over this way.

This particular plane is equipped with an automatic ditching control. It will automatically depressurize the cabin as they head down, so there won't be any trouble when they get into the water. And once they got here in many ways, very lucky because it's only about a half mile to either shore, so help was able to get to them very quickly. That's what saved so many lives.

But one more thing I want to point out, look at the wide picture of this area, because this is an important image to keep in mind. This is what's called the Atlantic flight path, or the Atlantic pattern, which migrating birds use, particularly water birds, some of them feeding in from around the Great Lakes. They come over here, and that's why it's not surprising for any pilot out here to talk about bird strikes -- Campbell.

BROWN: Tom Foreman for us tonight. Tom, thanks very much.

When we come back, we are going to talk about the man that you heard everyone calling a hero today, the pilot of that plane. How did he do it? How did he get it down safely on the water so that all 155 people aboard would survive? We'll tell you when we come back.



VOICE OF FRED BERRETTA, SURVIVOR OF US AIRWAYS FLIGHT 1549: Some folks initially went into the water, though most were able to get to the chutes that effectively perform like rafts. Many of us were standing on the wing. I actually initially was out with -- with passengers on the left wing, kind of standing there hoping the plane would not sink.


BROWN: That's survivor Fred Berretta (ph). He's saying everybody kept their heads. We keep hearing that, aboard Flight 1549. Not only did the women and children make it safely out of the water, so did everybody else. Miracle on the Hudson, that's what you are hearing it called over and over again, our breaking news tonight.

This tape, take a look. This is just in. These are new pictures of the plane tied up at the tip of Manhattan. That's just north of the world financial center.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will be in the city tonight and, of course, doing their work, taking a look at the plane. Of course, the hero of today's story is Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger. He is a veteran pilot and a safety expert as he demonstrated to the world today, frankly.

Erica Hill has been digging into his story, and she is here with more on this man that everyone is saying thank you to.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, saying thank you. They cannot praise him enough and I know a lot of people would like to know a little bit more about him.

All of the passengers it seems who have spoken out to the media aboard US Airways Flight 1549 have been calling him an incredible pilot, praising his skills with that landing. And as Campbell mentioned, he's not only a veteran pilot which may have a little something to do with it, his full name, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, but he's apparently known as "Sully." He's online biography on say he's been with US Airways now since 1980.

But get this, he was also a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He graduated from the Air Force Academy, and he's been an instructor and a safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association. Plus, he's a busy man here. Runs his own company called Safety Reliability Methods. It actually consults on safety in high risk industries.

Sullenberger hasn't spoken out publicly since the crash. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg though met with him shortly after the plane had evacuated and offered up some high praise.

A CNN producer, we should tell you, too, actually went to the Sullenberger residence in Danville, California, spoke with his wife, Lori (ph). Now, she did confirm her husband had called her after the crash to let her know he was OK, but that she didn't want to do an interview until she had gotten the clearance from her husband. And hopefully, they'll get a little bit of a break before they have to deal with too much of that.

BROWN: All right. And we got to go now. Larry King with much more on this ahead.