The passengers who survived the US Airways flight 1549 crash into the Hudson River each have an amazing story to tell. The tales start with a feeling of dread when the engines burst into flames - and end with elation and gratitude for a hero pilot.
Billy Campell was sitting in the second to last row of the plane:
"I happened to be sitting on the window so I could see ... the lights went out and there was a big shudder and I didn't think much of it other than we started to smell sort of a fire. And flames started coming out of the left hand engine."
"I was so far in the back that the only instructions we got were from the flight attendants. Some one did stand up in the back and she made them sit right back down and she walked through and made everyone tighten their seat belts and she didn't know either at that point. The pilot never came on to say anything ---obviously he was quite focused on what he was doing---until we got much closer to hitting the water.
"Water started to come through the windows. But [the pilot] did such a good job of keeping the nose up. The biggest concern I had in the back, because we took the brunt of the impact, was that we started to fishtail and as we started to fish tail the right wing started to dip into the water and I was worried that we were going to flip completely over or that the plane was going to break up. That didn't occur. ... I got up and said wow, this is pretty bad."
Jeff Kolodjay from Norwalk Conn:
"About three or four minutes into the flight I was sitting in 22A and the left engine just blew, fire and flames coming out of it and I was looking right at it because I was sitting right there and it just started smelling a lot like gasoline. A couple minutes after that the pilot came on said you guys have to brace for a hard impact and that when everyone started, to be honest, started saying prayers. I said about five "Our Fathers and five Hail Marys and we hit the water. We hit hard... You gotta hand it to the pilot he did a hell of a job."
Martin Sosa was seated a few seats away from his wife and 9 month old son:
"It was like a roller coaster. It was just like what you see in the movies. And then the next thing we know the water is coming in the cabin. And we were like we just survived the impact and now were in the water.
It was total chaos. I mean people were just trying to jump over people to jump over seat. I mean some people were going for their luggage. … everything that you’re not supposed to do people were doing."
Sosa's wife Tess credits a passenger next to her with calming her down:
"I said, are we going to be ok? He said yes, I said are you sure? He said yes.
At that point I was just yelling back to my daughter Sophia cause I could hear my husband trying to brace her and her saying let me go, and I kept saying we’re going to be ok Sophia, we’re going to be ok."
That man, David Sanderson, was the last to leave the plane:
[Tess] was terrified. The people on the life boat kept on saying throw us the baby, throw us the baby and she wouldn't do it. Myself and the other gentleman were like get the baby, get the baby and she did and then we just tossed her in the lifeboat.
It was controlled chaos, people start running up the seats, running up the aisles.
... I feel that I am the last person to leave the plane. That's what I was taught, that's what you do."
Tess and Martin Sosa, summed up the sentiment of all 154 passengers nicely on this morning's today show:
"It’s Great to be alive today. To be honest, it’s hard to believe we survived that."