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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

Miracle on the Hudson, 15 Years Later. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 07, 2024 - 20:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tunnel vision because of the stress. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that life was over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly thought that I was going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought this was it.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: And a special thank you to Captain Sullenberger for joining me earlier this hour. An all-new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER" is coming up next right here on CNN.

Thanks very much for joining me this evening. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you again next weekend. Good night.


Last week on a runway at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Japan Airlines Flight 516 collided with a smaller coast guard aircraft. Five crewmembers on the coast guard plane died. But amazingly, all 379 people on the Airbus survived. They were safely evacuated before the plane was engulfed in flames. Investigation into what happened is still under way.

It got us thinking about another miraculous story of survival that happened 15 years ago this month. U.S. Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport heading to Charlotte, North Carolina. There were 150 passengers on board and five crew members, including the pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. It should have been a quick two-hour flight.

But soon after takeoff the plane collided with a flock of geese. Both engines went out. The plane headed down. Captain Sullenberger acted quickly, steering the aircraft toward the Hudson River for an emergency landing. His decisiveness saved the lives of all 158 people on board. But this potential tragedy turned miracle was traumatic for many on the plane, including the captain. Over the next hour, you'll hear from them about what they went through

on that flight and get an intimate look into their lives 15 years after the event they say changed them forever.


C.B. "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, CAPTAIN, FLIGHT 1549: Cactus 1549, hit birds. We lost thrust on both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1549, if we can get it to you, do you want to try to land runway 1-3?

SULLENBERGER: We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Cactus 1549, it's going to be a left, traffic to runway 3-1.

SULLENBERGER: Unable. We're going to be in the Hudson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, say again, Cactus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he said he's going in the Hudson.

SULLENBERGER: Well, I've heard that recording many times of the air traffic control communications and it takes me right back to that moment.

BARRY LEONARD, PASSENGER, FLIGHT 1549: I was sitting in seat 1c.





LEONARD: I was sitting on the first row of the plane. So I watched everybody go by.

COLLINS: When we got on the flight, we were -- you know, they were telling us this is a completely full flight. We're behind schedule. Sit down.

RIC ELIAS, PASSENGER, FLIGHT 1549: We took off, and I was kind of dozing in and out.

STEVENSON: I could see the front of the engine. I saw a gray cloud.

SEAGLE: I had just reached under my seat to pull out a book that I was going to read on the flight, and that's when I remember hearing the thud.

COLLINS: About 10 years before I had been on a really, really turbulent flight. And when I was on that flight, there was a pilot who was a passenger. He leaned over to me, and he said, "ma'am, do not worry about turbulence." He said, "All we worry about in the cockpit are birds and fire."

STEVENSON: The birds had been just completely consumed by the engines.

PRESLEY: And that burning smell came into the airplane.

LEONARD: For whatever stupid reason, I took off my seat belt and I went over and I looked out the window. The engine is still there, but it's not running.

SEAGLE: What was most frightening to me was the silence. There was no engine noise.

SULLENBERGER: And we could feel our blood pressure shoot up, our pulse spike. Our perceptual field narrow in tunnel vision because of the stress.

ELIAS: I knew without a shadow of a doubt that life was over.

LEONARD: I honestly thought that I was going to die.

COLLINS: I thought this was it.

DR. RICHARD TEDESCHI, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNC CHARLOTTE: I've been a psychologist in private practice, therapy practice for over 40 years as well as a researcher at the university. In my own private practice, I did see people from this flight. Of course, I'm here in Charlotte, and that's where the flight was going.


People I talked to who came to see me after this flight, I mean, that was what's on their mind, that they were going to die. It's an interesting experiment from a psychological point of view. What happens to people after they experience something which rocks their world 15 years hence. Look what's happened to their lives.

SULLENBERGER: So steam the milk. Watching a pot boil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a while since on-camera interview. So in this capacity.


LORRIE SULLENBERGER, WIFE OF CAPT. SULLENBERGER: Well, he has done them, but we haven't had anyone in our home.


L. SULLENBERGER: So this is probably the first time in 10 years.

Remember when the airlines used to have real silverware?

And I also felt it is much more personal if we're home, rather than sitting somewhere else. SULLENBERGER: I had wanted to fly since I was 5 years old. And this is

one of the airplanes I flew when I had first gotten my private pilot license.

My first passenger was my mom. And in my flight logbook, I put a star by that flight, because it was special.

L. SULLENBERGER: I think about his mom all the time. One of the funny stories his mom liked to tell is that he was a handful as a toddler. And the Sunday school teacher brought him out to his mother by the collar and said, here you take him, I can't do anything with him.

SULLENBERGER: That's right. I was a cut-up.

L. SULLENBERGER: I think they were the kind of family from what I watched on the outside, they were immensely proud of their children.

SULLENBERGER: One of my big regrets is that my mother only lived a month past her diagnosis with cancer. She didn't get screened. They didn't detect it early enough. And then it was a very, very sad loss, especially after my dad's suicide.

The picture of my dad in his U.S. Navy officer's uniform in 1942. He was stationed in Hawaii then. Perhaps one of the reasons I worked so hard to make sure that every life was saved was that I couldn't save my father. Of course, I wasn't there. I mean, I didn't know, you know, what a deep depression he was in. Yes.

My dad was not a pilot, but he always loved airplanes. And I think because we had aviation magazines and books around, it was, you know, just obvious.

L. SULLENBERGER: What I always tell people was, had one person not made it off of Flight 1549, Sully would not have been the same man. That would have destroyed him, having just one person die on that airplane.

Nobody wants to be on that airplane and have that experience. It's not like you won a race or you won something that's just purely a celebration. There is a traumatic part to it. You need to be respectful of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, I'm going to just have to interrupt you here for a moment because wouldn't you know, we've got some breaking news that's coming in to us right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A plane has apparently gone down in the Hudson. This is Flight 1549.

TEDESCHI: What's trauma for one person is not necessarily a traumatic event for another person. It's very individually defined. What traumatic events really are, are events that challenge core beliefs. Like how much control do I have over my life? How predictable is my life? How fair is life?

SULLENBERGER: I'd been flying airplanes for 42 years. I had 20,000 hours in the air. And all during that time, I had never been so challenged in an airplane. I knew immediately that this was going to be different. This was going to be the worst day of my life.

This is a blowup of a photo that was taken during the rescue.

L. SULLENBERGER: It was interesting actually preparing for you coming here. I pulled out a lot of the old memorabilia and letters and newspaper clippings. And it was a little bit -- I actually went downstairs and told Sully I have a little PTSD because you do pack that away a little bit.

SULLENBERGER: This someone of those events that divides one's life into before and after.

L. SULLENBERGER: Oh, yes. Yes.

SULLENBERGER: For everybody on the airplane and their families. Yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FAA is now telling us that there may have been something that caused the plane to go down.


SULLENBERGER: Many on the airplane, as well as the crew and I felt and experienced post-traumatic stress disorder for some period of time afterwards, and for many people it lasted a long time.


SULLENBERGER: The Wright Brothers' first flight was in December 1903. We've come a long way since then. Aviation has become so routine, so safe, so predictable that we often take it for granted, and we shouldn't. We've had to learn from aviation accidents, but you have to realize that safety is not a destination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been speculation that there were communication problems.

SULLENBERGER: It's a continuous never-ending journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight 232 crashed as it attempted an emergency landing at the Sioux City, Iowa, airport.

COLLINS: All right, here you go. Go willie!

My late 20s to late 30s are honestly a blur.

Come on, let's go get a treat, go get lunch.

I had my first child in '99, my second one in 2002, my third one in 2004. Most days were just survival mode. Like, can I keep these three children alive? We were both in sales for companies not based here in Tennessee. Many times I would land at the airport at 3:30 in the afternoon. My husband was flying out at 5:00. We would cross like ships in the night.

LEONARD: I had gone to the Institute of Technology for graduate school. I wanted to turn companies around. That's what I was really good at. And I swear, I could make a lot of money. I traveled as much as anybody, 150,000, 200,000 miles a year. It was hard on a marriage, number one, and hard on the kids. There were times when, you know, I would get a little depressed.

I remember one time I had a severe, severe panic attack. I thought I was dying. My blood pressure was somewhere around 220 over 100, you know, ridiculous stroke level stuff. And I think that was a result of the stress of the jobs I had sometimes.

ELIAS: We decided to start this company in January of 2000. My son came home in 2001, and my daughter in 2003. We were not making any money. We were really struggling. It was insane. You're literally just trying to figure out a way not to go under. You know, so you're trying to survive. And I missed those early years of my kids growing up.


SULLENBERGER: It was a startling event to have hit so many large birds, a flock of Canada geese that weigh 10 or 12 pounds with five- foot or six-foot wing spans, and have them hit the whole airplane. In the 208 seconds that we had from the time we hit the birds and last thrust until we had landed, I knew I had to take at least a few seconds of that time to make an announcement in the cabin to tell the flight attendants and the passengers that we're going to make an emergency landing.

I said, this is the captain. Brace for impact. I could hear the flight attendants in the front begin shouting their commands to the passengers in unison, brace, brace, brace, heads down, stay down, over and over again.

COLLINS: I send my husband Steve a text message that was just one sentence that said my flight is crashing, period. And as I was typing it, my seat mate, he said put that up. He said you're out of time. And that's a sentence that hit me like a ton of bricks. I was like, really, God? At 37, I'm out of time? I'm not going to be the mother of the bride? I'm not going to see my youngest son hit his first homerun. I'm not a perfect mother, but I'm their mother. And to think that I wouldn't finish raising them was pretty hard.

LEONARD: I didn't scream. I didn't anything, you know. I was just like, you know, I'm going die. And I thought about my wife, my kids, my mom.

ELIAS: I realized that the one thing I was going miss in life was not another dollar, not another game, not another victory, not another bottle of wine, not another trip. What I was going to miss was seeing my kids grow up.

We hit the water. It was a heavy impact.

LEONARD: And all of the sudden it was like bam. So it was a pretty big jolt. And I guess my knee hit my sternum because my sternum cracked.

ELIAS: We skid. And I have my eyes closed waiting for the explosion.

COLLINS: It was rough and it was violent. And I remember it shook a lot. When we seemingly stopped, I looked up and I thought I'm in one piece. This plane is in one piece. So I thought the closest exit is the back. I unbuckled. The flight attendant was there. We can't get those doors open. The water pressure outside is a lot stronger than we are. She says we're in the water. You have two minutes. She said go to the wings.

Evidently when we hit the river, the auxiliary power unit fell off so there was a hole underneath the rear galley and so the water just came rushing in. That was my scariest moment. I thought Lord, please do not let me drown. It was so cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know if a rescue operation is under way.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And the temperature of that water in the Hudson River only in the 40s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 43 is hypothermia in less than minutes here.

LEONARD: You never understand the enormity of the plane until you see it at a time like this. This is the door that I actually came out of, which is right here above me. And Sully came out of the cockpit door and said evacuate. I undid my seat belt. I remember I took my shoes off and then I jumped into the Hudson River.

I remember I swam to the front of the plane, and I looked back and I saw people walking on water. So I actually thought that I had died. And it was only after I started swimming back this way did I realize that people were on the wing and I wasn't dead.

SULLENBERGER: I was concerned that someone evacuating the airplane might be left behind. That's why I had the need to go through the airplane twice. I was at such a state of stress, I didn't trust my eyes and ears. I went through the airplane looking down every row of seats. Our air flight attendant got pretty impatient with me as the airplane was taking on water, and said, when I was at the back the second time, shouted to me, we need to get off this airplane right now. And I said I'm coming, and I took one more look before I walked back up.


LARRY KING, TV HOST: Joining us for another special hour, the captain and crew of U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there is anybody in the world who doesn't know who Sully is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy Sully, he's a hero.

SULLENBERGER: My family and I know that this event was two parts, the trauma of that flight itself. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Captain Cool himself --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sully Sullenberger.



SULLENBERGER: And then the stress of this intense worldwide attention and media coverage in the aftermath.

Thank you very much. What a wonderful welcome. Thank you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was called the "Miracle on the Hudson."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the unforgettable image with the even more unforgettable ending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a year marred by air disasters all around the world, this was one good news story.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Why is this called "Miracle on the Hudson"? There are a few different reasons. One is that Governor Paterson of New York at the time essentially came up with this term.

DAVID PATERSON, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: We've had a miracle on 34th Street. I believe now we've had a miracle on the Hudson.

MUNTEAN: The real reason is that this was truly a miracle. It's the most successful ditching of an aircraft of all time. You could not write this story better.

STEVENSON: I took out a business card from my wallet and I just scribbled a really fast note, and I said, you know, to my mom and my sister, I love you, because I thought if the worst case does happen and the plane crashes and disintegrates, then at least I wanted them to know I was thinking about them in those last few seconds.

So I ended up being one of the last three people physically on the wing. I climbed up the ladder on to the rescue boat, and at that point kind of another wave of relief went through me. All of the sudden I was in the darkest, darkest place, and I just got my life back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 155 men, women, and children coming off a plane in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are passengers from U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. Airways source tells CNN the pilot's name is Captain Chesley B. Sully -- L. SULLENBERGER: He had lost 14 pounds in like the four days or three

days before he came home. Just like when you're really worried or sick, he had really dark circles under his eyes. He looked gaunt. He was distant. When I went to hug him, the first thing he said to me was, I hope everyone knows I did the best I could. And I mean I wanted to cry. I said -- but he hadn't been watching the news. He didn't know what they were saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight everyone calling that pilot a hero, saying he did everything right to keep everyone alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just incredible. I hope he flies every flight I take from now on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This pilot, and if this guy doesn't get the recognition he needs --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the reason my daughter, my 2 1/2-year-old has a dad.

COLLINS: It was the good news story of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This could turn out to be just quite an amazing, amazing miracle.

MUNTEAN: For this to happen with such a positive outcome really speaks to just how much New York needed something to happen like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Yorkers view it as, in a way, connected to 2001.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An airliner too low and going the wrong way down the Hudson River, not, thank goodness, what it looked like, not a hijacked plane.

L. SULLENBERGER: The news media had shown up at our house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How proud of him are you?

L. SULLENBERGER: Oh, I just -- but, you know, this is the Sully I know. I always knew this is how he would react. So to me this is not something unusual. It's the man I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thanks a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, ma'am.


L. SULLENBERGER: I could hear the hum of the generators outside. That's one of the things that sticks with me from that day is that sound of the generators running. Obviously things changed from there.

SULLENBERGER: Completely. L. SULLENBERGER: And of course we are very proud of dad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please. Thank you, guys. Over here, guys, just three steps back.

SULLENBERGER: And drinking from the fire hose doesn't give it justice. It was just incredibly intense and overwhelming.

BLOOMBERG: Captain Cool himself, Chesley Sullenberger, Sully.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there is anybody in the world who doesn't know who Sully is.

SULLENBERGER: I received a call from the president of the United States, President George W. Bush to congratulate me. And then one hour and a half after that I got a call from President-elect Obama. And so we were all off to the inauguration. Just that next Monday.

KING: Good evening. Tonight joining us for another special hour, the captain and crew of U.S. Airways Flight 1549.


SULLENBERGER: I feel like I'd been chosen by circumstance.

L. SULLENBERGER: I remember in the very beginning we got a fax. It was like a hand-written note. And it just said "America needed a win. Thank you." And that came through on our fax machine. I have no idea who it was from or how they got our fax number. Mail was being delivered to our house. Our mailman would come at night, and he would put those bins that you have like when you're away, you know those Tubbs that have mail in them, and they would be full of letters from people all around the globe.

A letter that I quote often, she said, in the last year, I had lost my father to cancer, I lost my job, and then my home. I had lost my faith. You, sir, gave it back. That is in essence the same story that they all tell us.

DR. SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, UC RIVERSIDE: I have said all along I would love to be able to meet with a psychologist and find out about the study of when as a nation we have a collective, like, good feeling story.

Evolutionary theorists argue that emotions have functions. And when you think about the specific emotions, why do we have anger? Because when we are being attacked, anger prompts us to fight. Why we have fear when, you know, a tiger is running after us, it will prompt us to flee. There is an emotion called elevation, and elevation is this warm feeling in your chest when you see acts of moral virtue.

Elevation leads to inspiration, and you're inspired to also help others, to also be a hero. My hypothesis is that many people watching the "Miracle on the Hudson" felt that emotion of elevation, that warmth in their chest, and were just inspired, inspired to call up their mom and say hello, you know, inspired to help their neighbor with their groceries.

Any evolutionary theorist would tell you that social connection is maybe sort of the most important kind of like evolutionarily adaptive experiences that human beings have. We band together. We protect each other, we feed each other. If humans didn't feel this emotion of elevation, you would be less likely to survive. You would be less likely to pass on your genes.

SEAGLE: There is almost this weightless feeling for a moment as the plane then began to bank down instead of going up anymore. So that was kind of the immediate feeling. That was the panic. I could just hear the blood rushing through my ears that I don't know if you've ever felt it, but it's, you know, it's that adrenaline I guess really kicking in.

All I could go through was mentally what is this going to do to my kids? What is this going to do to my husband, what is this going to do to my parents, to my sister, to my family? That was incredibly emotional. I had decided to jump in the water. I didn't -- you know, it was a very deliberate decision because of I smelled jet fuel. I wanted to get away from the aircraft. All the ferry drivers immediately, they came.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the passenger is safe, surrounded by a fleet of rescue boats, local ferries, tugs, Coast Guard vessels.

SEAGLE: My husband came up that night. He was able to get on a flight. USAIR was very good to the spouses. They got to the airport and they made an announcement that there are spouses and family members of those who were just on the plane that went down in the Hudson, and if you were willing to give up your seat for one of them, and he said it was incredible how many people did that. So that -- yes, that always was very, yes, heartwarming to know that there was people who I'm sure they needed to be in New York. I'm sure they did. But they gave up those seats so that they could be there.



LEONARD: Every year I have a celebration party for our reunion. It's so wonderful for the passengers to get together and talk with one another.

Here's to life 10 years later. Cheers.


LEONARD: This bond was created between all of us. We're the only ones that can really help each other. That's the way we think about it. And believe me, there is people that have gone through some really, really, really bad, bad times. COLLINS: I don't think I'll ever be the exact same self that I was

when I boarded that airplane.



SULLENBERGER: A lot of people on the airplane, passengers and crew alike, feel like they got a second chance at life.

CLAY PRESLEY, PASSENGER, FLIGHT 1549: When he said brace for impact, I advanced into a zone beyond fear. You resign yourself to the fact that, you know, you're probably going to die. I thought about my wife. I thought about my children. You just feel like wow, this has been a short life.

OK. So here's a little bit of memorabilia from the whole adventure.


This was a note that my niece sent me. "I prayed and prayed for you, and I'm so glad you're alive. You're the best uncle ever. Once again, I'm glad you're OK. Love, Allie."

You're so scared in this situation. I boiled down my fear to lack of control and not understanding what was going on in the front of the planes, what were the pilots doing.

My two favorite pictures from the entire event, this was kind of the historic one. This picture actually was Sully's last flight. It was right about that same time I got my pilot's license in June of 2011.

I've got almost 900 hours of flying time now. I asked my instructor in the beginning, I remember, at what point am I going to feel like flying is like driving a car? And he said somewhere around 250 hours. And sure enough, he was right.

Just the small amount of damage can really affect the airworthiness of the airplane. So you just want to make sure that there is nothing wrong with it.

LYUBOMIRSKY: One way to think about people's responses to traumatic experiences is there's sort of three main kind of responses. People might not do so well and then they kind of stay low. And that other people feel, you know, anxiety, depression, and then they bounce back to their previous baseline. So that's what you'd call resilience. For the third way, researchers call post-traumatic growth, where you actually end up higher than you started.

TEDESCHI: We first talked about it in 1995. We did basically 10 years' worth of research on this before we even came up with that term. Post- traumatic growth involves different ways that people grow and change. New possibilities or opportunities in life, deeper relationships with people, a greater sense of personal strength. It's common to help people can get there and how they describe their own experiences is very individual. SEAGLE: Oh, dolphins.

So after 2009, there is this taking stock. Where am I going to make changes? I knew that things needed to change. I had the opportunity to speak to my employer and say you've been good to me for 15 years, but I'm not happy in the job. I would like an opportunity to think about doing something else.

TEDESCHI: People often say to us that the events they've been through have changed the direction of their lives. Maybe it's introduced them to things that they've never considered for themselves before.

SEAGLE: I help develop programs and work with nonprofit organizations that support women around the world, specifically women entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.

Where there is conflict in the world, there just isn't enough rights for women and economic empowerment. And so we are looking to change that.

I have found such tremendous fulfillment through the job that I have.

LEONARD: I loved my job. Don't get me wrong. I really did. I just decided that it was important to me to spend more time with my family.

Hudson, we're going play the drums?

I needed my wife, you know, I needed her love and comfort, I needed my children.

There you go!

TEDESCHI: People often report changes in how they relate to other people. They're more likely to be emotional expressive, to be empathic. Their connections with other people are important to them.

LEONARD: I am right here. We were helping people into the raft.

ELIAS: That day I made it very clear that I was reorganizing my time and my energy to be a better dad.

STEVENSON: The Hudson triggered a really wonderful series of kind of self-exploration for me.

My career has been largely in tech. And so I joined a robotics start- up, robots for restaurants and service and hospitality. This robot is used between the kitchen and then the serving area. I really felt like I needed to reinvent myself and find a new way where I could really make a difference.


DR. ERANDA JAYAWICKREME, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: I'm a research psychologist and a post-traumatic psychologist by training. Research has only been citing post-traumatic growth for the last 25 years. And there are lot of unanswered questions about the ubiquity of post-traumatic growth. The extent to which post-traumatic growth co-exists with negative changes.

I don't doubt that some people do change. In my own research, we observe that some people seem to experience positive changes. I think we have so much more to learn about the domains in which people change, how frequently does negative and positive change co-exist with each other. Some people may have changed in ways that are both positive and negative.

LEONARD: When I'm on a plane, I am anxious definitely for those first 90 seconds. When we took off, it was 90 seconds before the birds hit. You definitely worry, you know. This could happen again.

PRESLEY: I never had been claustrophobic before. But after the event, I was extremely claustrophobic. I was doing some work on my boat. I was down in the engine room, and then I panicked and was trying to figure out how I could get out of there. So I cut my arm and everything trying to get out. But I said, man, I've never had that type of feeling before.

COLLINS: Why do we hold on to this stuff, I wonder? I don't know why I have not thrown this away. Yes. Here is the sweater. Here is the pants, too. Some of the passengers when I met later, they were, like, I thought you were the flight attendant. And I think because I was almost dressed like a flight attendant. I had on blue and gray pants. I mean, isn't this silly? I should get rid of this stuff.

About a month later was when I was just not myself. Once the shock I think wore off, then I became just really sad, really blue. Suddenly I did not feel equipped to keep everything going. My ability to remember. I would be typing an e-mail and just totally lose my train of thought. I felt like Eeyore. And I'd always been Tigger. I just sort of survived, you know. It was probably one of the greatest acts in aviation history and walked off of it without a scratch on me.

Like what is wrong with you? Like snap out of it. You felt so ungrateful. There are some parts of me I think that are better. I got more involved with my church, with my community. I've served on several nonprofit boards, foundations. Some things are not as good. I don't think I'll ever be the exact same self that I was when I boarded that airplane.

This is my boarding pass. I can't get rid of that stuff. I struggled with why was I on that plane? What am I supposed to take away from this?

JAYAWICKREME: I worry that this idea that you can grow might become a burden for many people, especially people for whom dealing with the aftermath of the event they've gone through can be challenging.

TEDESCHI: We're not saying that we must somehow prescribe post- traumatic growth or expect it of everyone. It's not a universal experience, but it's common and it's natural.

SULLENBERGER: One passenger in particular wrote to me to tell me of her concerns that with her second chance that she hadn't done enough of with it, and I tried to say, no, you're living your life however you want. That's all any of us can do.

L. SULLENBERGER: Frankly, I think --

SULLENBERGER: I know what you're going to say.

L. SULLENBERGER: I think Mr. Sullenberger struggles with a little bit of that. One of my favorite words that I say to Sully a lot is landing in the river was enough. You don't need to keep helping.

SULLENBERGER: We must investigate accidents before they happen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We started the week with such great news in terms of aviation with the "Miracle on the Hudson." Now at the end of the week, we hear this tragedy. A commuter plane, 48 people were on board, and they do not think anybody survived this crash.

MUNTEAN: There's not been an incident with massive fatalities involving a commercial airliner in the U.S. since 2009. In America's airports, more than two million people a day are passing through security on a regular basis. It is a pretty incredible thing that flying happens so safely all the time. That, in a way, is a miracle.

SULLENBERGER: Here it is, uncurated.


SULLENBERGER: If I were not doing well after all the things that have happened in my life, it would be my own fault, and especially because I still have the love of my life next to me, who's a wise counselor as well as a partner.


So, where is that frame thing that you just had?

SULLENBERGER: Oh, here we go. Yes. There's another one.

L. SULLENBERGER: Oh, that's beautiful.

SULLENBERGER: And this one. And here's another one.

The flight and the immediate aftermath and my father's suicide, they are forced growth.


You know, there's always the weight of that trauma that is still there. We just have to learn how to manage it. I wouldn't be who I am now had this been different.

Let's see what else we got. And then here, I am as I had just entered the United States Air Force Academy as a freshman. This is during the basic training summer, obviously. Look at how short my hair has been cut.

L. SULLENBERGER: Sully is incredibly smart. I knew he took flying very seriously from the get-go. But he is a quiet guy. I used to joke that he had 25 words a day to say to me. To rise to what is required at this point of him.

SULLENBERGER: As aviation has become safer, we can no longer define safety solely as the absence of accidents.

L. SULLENBERGER: Has been --

SULLENBERGER: We must do much more than that.

L. SULLENBERGER: -- nothing short of amazing. I don't know how he does it still.

SULLENBERGER: So our daughters did not want to be pilots, but they thought it was pretty cool when they got in an airplane and got to take a trip and go somewhere.

We have wonderful adult relationships with our adult daughters.

L. SULLENBERGER: With the girls. Yes.

SULLENBERGER: Which we're very fortunate. And they're still fairly close to us, and we can see them regularly.

So, here we are, a very young, younger daughter wearing my airline captain hat.

L. SULLENBERGER: I'm proud of who they've become, but I'm even more proud of how they've navigated their own personal success and separately from their dad.


L. SULLENBERGER: And made peace with it.

COLLINS: All right. We'll give this just a few more minutes. And that'll be ready.

This is definitely a mile marker in the tapestry of my life, for sure.

Yes. You can go ahead and make sures. Dad's coming up.

I think it just -- it made me realize how none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. It seems like yesterday. But then when I look at my life, since that day, I've had three children graduate from high school. I've had one graduate from college. I'm now an empty nester.

LEONARD: I have two grandchildren that are amazing, and I hope there's going to be more.

Oh, look at that. All right. Yay.

My grandson's name is Hudson. Come here to me. Come here to me.

And obviously I think the flight had something to do with it.

SEAGLE: I'm going to be a grandparent. My kids are grown and married and no longer kids and have their own independent lives.

PRESLEY: Y'all say hello.


PRESLEY: Say Merry Christmas to Mr. Sullenberger.

SULLENBERGER: How are you?

PRESLEY: We're all doing great.

At the time of the accident, I had one grandchild.

So, I'm Elf.


PRESLEY: We now have 13 grandchildren.

SULLENBERGER: You start with the passengers and then the sons and daughters and children and grandchildren, great grandchildren.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going tonight? Oh, I forgot.

SULLENBERGER: That, in my mind, is the possibility of the future.

LEONARD: Hudson, buddy.

SULLENBERGER: Having had the successful flight we did and everyone survived and we don't know yet --

LEONARD: I love you.

SULLENBERGER: -- what their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren will accomplish because they survived.

BLOOMBERG: Hemingway defined heroism once as grace under pressure, and I think it's fair to say that Captain Sullenberger certainly displayed that. And his brave actions have inspired millions of people in the city and millions more around the world.

SULLENBERGER: This is a reminder, I think, of all the people out there who are not corrupt, who are courageous, who are compassionate. They're doing things, important things, you know, compassionate things all the time. We just don't know who they all are. They haven't been as publicly noticed as we were. But that's a potential that each of us has. It's a reminder that those qualities, those traits, still exist. Even if they're not always evident.