A year after the 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549 survived a splash-landing on the frigid Hudson River, some are returning to New York City for the anniversary. While many say they have a new appreciation for life, memories of that frantic day still haunt them.
“It’s still hard to get on the plane,” said Denise Lockie, who has to travel on planes frequently for work. "I have an entire ritual, I do breathing exercises, anything soothing before take off."
What happened on January 15, 2009 become known as the Miracle on the Hudson. After a collision with a flock of birds disabled the
aircraft's engines, Capt. Chesley "Sully'' Sullenberger ditched the plane in the river, averting catastrophe and saving the lives of all his passengers and crew members.
On Friday, some of the survivors will take a boat out on the Hudson River, the same place where they were pulled from the freezing water last year, to commemorate their miraculous landing. For some, it will be very difficult.
"I’m probably going to relive the ditching on the Hudson and the anxiety and the panic," said Lockie, "But I also feel that it’s going to be full circle."
"Some real friendships have formed as a result. It’s a bond like nothing else," said Pam Seagle. "Some of us have had some tough times this year and we really leaned on each other."
Laura Zych and Ben Bostic sat three rows away from each other and even in the midst of the frantic rescue, the two managed to notice each other.
"I had just boarded the plane and I saw her coming down the aisle," said Bostic. "But I got my book out started reading. If we had landed at the airport like we were supposed to, I don't think I would have had the chance to reconnect with her."
"There were mostly glances and maybe even small talk," said Zych. "We were in it together but because there wasn't a lot of time and we had just gone through so much trauma, there wasn't a chance to strike up a conversation.”
But the two who live in Charlotte, North Carolina, kept in touch and six months after the ordeal, they began to date.
"That day showed me that nothing is guaranteed," said Bostic. "Tomorrow’s not guaranteed so don’t let opportunities pass you by."
Barry Leonard was sitting in the first row on January 15. When the plane hit the water, the impact broke his sternum. It was a long recovery but he is thankful to be walking and working again. Leonard's family lives in Charlotte, North Caroline but work takes him to New York every week. Since surviving the splash-landing, he's been on a plane more than a hundred times. On Friday, he will present the plane's crew and the rescuers with a plaque, to show his appreciation.
"It's about expressing gratitude. That makes me really happy. And letting people know we care."