Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of a CNN.com article from January 2009.
The pilot aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549 came over the speaker system and told passengers “brace for impact.” One passenger turned on his cell phone so his body could be found with its GPS tracking. Others reflected on their lives.
Survivors said it was about 20 seconds later when the plane struck the water of the Hudson River on Thursday afternoon.
Each of them lauded the heroics of the pilot, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III.
Here are survivor accounts in their own words:
“He’s the man! He’s absolutely the man. … If you want to talk to a hero, get ahold of him because that is the hero in this whole deal.”
Spera described “the moment of impact”: “Have you ever been in a speedboat and hit some wake? That’s what it felt like, when you go over the wake and you hit the water again. … It wasn’t that bad of an impact, which was strange. And then after that, there wasn’t a lot of yelling and screaming. It was fairly orderly getting off the plane.”
As the pilot announced the plane was going down, Collins grabbed her cell phone. “I grabbed my phone and turned it on and got my husband’s name and texted him, ‘My flight is crashing,’ because I wanted him to know I was thinking of him and, also, I didn’t want there to be this, if it did turn out terrible, a time where he was trying to figure out if I was on there or not.”
Collins described trying to exit from the back of the plane and the problems a flight attendant had. “She had tried to open both of the back doors and couldn’t get them open because of the water pressure. But they were open enough that the water was flowing in. And all of a sudden, she said, ‘We’re in the water, go to the wings.’ And she looked at me and she said, ‘We have two minutes.’ “
“God was certainly looking out for all of us.”
Wentzell cried when talking about returning home to snuggle with his young daughter. “When I get home, I am going to take my nose and put it by her ear, her little warm body and give her a nice kiss from Daddy. I’m alive. That’s it. I don’t have much else to say.”
“We have a second chance in life.”
“We were all looking to see how we were gonna die. It was really strange.”
On the crash landing, he said, “Usually in moments like that, you would expect chaos. It got really quiet and nobody said a word. There was a child crying. That was about it. That was understandable.”
He said passengers didn’t panic on the plane. It was only after the crash when things got chaotic, he said. “It’s when we got outside and in the cold water. And I mean the water was cold. Within seconds, my legs were numb, standing in the cold water.”
“We’re just happy to be around. We’re just happy to be around.”
“The plane started filling with water pretty quick. … It was scary. There was a lady with her baby on my left-hand shoulder, and she was crawling over the seats.”
On the “brace for impact” moment: “That’s the only thing that was said. I guess that’s probably a better thing so that people didn’t panic. But at the time, he said it so calmly. From that point until we hit the water, it was pretty quick.”
He said he turned on his cell phone before impact so that his body could be found via GPS.
Panero added, “We just hit, and somehow the plane stayed afloat, and we were able to get on the raft. It’s just incredible right now that everybody’s still alive.”
“I think a lot of people started praying and just collecting themselves,” Berretta said. “It was quite stunning.” He said he was expecting the plane to flip over and break apart, but it didn’t. “It was a great landing,” he said.
This is a reprint of a CNN.com article from January 2009.