Over the past two years Capt. Chesley Sully Sullenberger has met with presidents and princes, he's led parades and been given accolades. All the while replaying in his mind the events of January 15, 2009. The day the airplane he was flying was hit by a flock of geese and he was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.
It was two years ago this weekend that U.S. Airway Flight 1549 made that miraculous landing after a flight that lasted barely five minutes.
"For much of the last two years, this event would be the first thing I thought of when I woke and the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep," Sully said from his Bay Area home.
It is an understatement to say Sully's life changed that day. He took off from the New York runway in anonymity and crashed straight into celebrity.
"It’s almost impossible to describe in words unless you have been through it yourself. The suddenness of it, the intensity of it, the 24 7 constancy of it being the public face of this event. It’s a whole new job that require different skills," Sully said.
Sully said everyone on board had a very steep learning curve, especially at first. He said they all had to get very good at living this "new life" in the public eye.
"With the passage of time I have come to appreciate all the more just how much went right that day. and how very well my crew did our jobs," Sully said.
It's a job, by the way, that Sully no longer does. He has since retired from flying and now writes books, gives speeches and advocates from better airline safety.
He said, while there are times both he and members of his family wish he was not so famous, he realized early that he couldn't change that fact to he both accepted it and pledged to make the most of it.
"I believe good has come of it and I believe more good will come of it," Sully aid.
He said he is reminded of that every time he opens the mail and gets a letter or a Christmas card from passengers that include pictures of the lives that were touched by Flight 1549. He realizes just how many people have reason to be grateful.