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Brace For Impact

“Brace for impact,” Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger instructed, and the passengers knew what that meant: they were about to perish in a plane crash. Instead, they received the gift of a “new” life! Since January 15, 2009, they have embraced the Miracle on the Hudson with hearts of gratitude, an awakened sense of purpose, an outpouring of love and appreciation for all of life, a deeper faith, and greater hope. Here are some touching insights from passengers and first responders who were there:

Every day is a miracle. Some days they’re just bigger than normal.”
– passenger Billy Campbell

“When Flight 1549 went down in the Hudson, what spurred us all on was this: to survive, to celebrate life. Could there be a message there for us all?”
– passenger Gerry McNamara

“After I survived the Hudson, I made a vow to hug everyone I met: anyone, anytime, anywhere. Hugging is about celebrating life, and through each and every hug it feels as if my miracle is somehow extended. I’m going to keep hugging!”
– passenger Beth McHugh

“No matter what our challenges or struggles may be, it really doesn’t have to be so bad, so hopeless. We can still get up every day and appreciate the sunshine, and the rain. We can still breathe. We can still love.”
– passenger Don Norton

“Anyone can have a ‘Sully Moment’ – moments of readiness in the face of fear, total commitment even when you can’t possibly know the outcome. It can come with any situation when you are the crossroads and your whole life has been preparing you for that moment, and then you just go for it.”
– passenger Matt Kane

Before the crash I just got busy, busy, busy. Now I slow down. I take the time to smile at people and say, ‘How are you?’ I’m really here now. It’s a better life.”
– passenger Debbie Ramsey

“I have an image of walking my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I will be filled with joy and happiness, but I’ll also remember back to January 15th, 2009. And I’ll shed another tear, so thankful that I’m alive for that moment.”
– passenger Jerry Shanko, reflecting on the life of his daughter, born four months after the crash

“When I was growing up I led a really wild life, doing things I was definitely not proud of. But after the crash I thought ‘If what I did on that plane was the one moment of really coming through, I’ll take it.’ I was able to forgive myself.”
– passenger Brad Wentzell, who helped a mother and her baby get safely off the plane and assisted in flipping over a life raft to ensure the safety of others

“On 9/11 I got to Ground Zero a few minutes after the second tower collapsed. Mostly, there was no one to help. So on January 15, to find a miracle when I expected another scene of devastation and loss was such a wonderful relief.”
– Dr. Ray Basri, a physician and volunteer firefighter who worked at triage for 9/11 and Flight 1549

“Sometimes when I’m around other people now my heart flies open so much, I get a little choked up. Before the accident I’d worry about not maintaining my image. Now I don’t care. I’m true to myself, true to my feelings.”
– passenger Barry Leonard

“After the crash I asked myself ‘Why am I here? What is my true purpose?’ I don’t have all the answers yet but I have begun speaking at churches with this message: What if you found out right now that you only had one minute left to live?”
– passenger Bill Elkin

“Recently I was trying to assist a patient who was depressed, not motivated. So I reminded her about the Miracle on the Hudson and how all those passengers believed they were going to die but then summoned the will to survive. It inspired her to go on.”
– first responder Dr. Hilda Roque-Dieguez

“I get up there without notes and look in their eyes, and as I tell my story of this miracle I sense that I am connecting with their souls. Often I see tears in their eyes – and sometimes I cry too. This is my calling.”
– passenger Dave Sanderson, who has spoken to more than 80 groups about his Flight 1549 experience

“No matter what I do next, I expect I will continue to share what I believe the Miracle on the Hudson really means, not just for me and my loved ones but for each and every one of us. One way or another, we were all on board this flight together.”
– passenger Mark Hood

“After the crash, I made a vow to always be there for my wife and three sons. What they have taught me is that it’s just as important for them to know they will always be there for me. Love is a full circle.
– passenger Darren Beck

“I’m taking this experience back into life as a way to be more of the man I always wanted to be. The hand of fate will grab me again, and when it does I hope it will be to help other human beings, to do a good deed.”
– first responder Scott Koen

“When something like this happens to you, you won’t get your old life back. You just won’t. But whatever is going to be different in you, it’s important to keep something important from the ‘old you’ too.”
– passenger Glenn Carlson

“Traumatic things will happen to us all, but if we believe in our heart of hearts that we have more to accomplish on this planet, we don’t have to live our lives afraid of them.”
– passenger Maryann Bruce, a survivor of seven potential tragedies

“This experience was a blessing – a reminder that God gives us hope in the direst of moments, that sense of hope and salvation.”
-passenger Warren Holland

Everybody has a ‘plane crash.’ You just have to figure out how to deal with it.”
– passenger Michele Davis, sharing an observation from a friend

Life presents us with ‘plane crashes’ from time to time. The trick, I guess, is to learn the lessons way before the ‘crash’. In other words, brace for impact!

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With excerpts from  Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life by Dorothy Firman and Kevin Quirk . The book presents in-depth, first-person stories of 25 passengers and first responders from Flight 1549. Find out more at

Pic Courtesy : Time Magazine


  1. bertz bertz January 23, 2010

    Yes i agree Corinne, every day is a miracle. Imagine for a moment the sun does'nt rise in the morning….what if the the sun never sets….what if our earth stopped….Strange, some of us are still searching for miracles to happen….B.J.

  2. Gyanban Gyanban January 21, 2010

    i think most people if not all , loose their sense of judgement at a time of extreme potentially life threatening crisis.It s only aftermath that magnifies the possibility ..and influences future action..

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