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Posted: September 09, 2016

As 'Sully' premieres, passengers of Flight 1549 remain grateful

By Jim Bradley

WSOC - Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The movie "Sully" premieres in theaters nationwide Friday night, and the heroic emergency landing has special meaning for Charlotte.

Many of those on board during the "miracle on the Hudson" were headed home to Charlotte that day eight years ago when 155 passengers stood ankle deep in freezing water, perched on the wings of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 as it floated in the Hudson River.

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"I get chills every time I watch this," passenger Vicki Barnhardt said as she watched the movie trailer.

Barnhardt said she's not really sure she even wants to see the movie, because she's not sure how she'll react.

"I was thinking I was going to die and I'd never see my children," Barnhardt said. "You know, those are the things that certainly bring back emotions, which I suspect may happen, or those thoughts and feelings will come back as I watch the movie."

The movie, which stars Tom Hanks, focuses on the pilot, Chesley  "Sully" Sullenberger, who managed to land Flight 1549 safely on the Hudson after bird strikes took out both engines seconds after takeoff.

Passenger Ben Bostic said he can't help but remember the uncertainty he felt that day.

"There was a lot of stuff running through my mind," Bostic said. "That was the most terrifying part of the ordeal. Like, not knowing."

For Bostic, and many others on the plane, the years after "the miracle on the Hudson" have been marked by deep gratitude for second chances at life.

Jim Whitaker is a Charlotte architect who boarded Flight 1549 as a last-minute standby passenger. 

"You realize how thankful you are that, 'Well, I'm alive. My family's still here. I still have my faith,'" Whitaker said.

Whitaker's story includes more than his own survival. Just before impact he clutched to his chest the infant son of the panicked woman sitting next to him.

"Of all the people on that plane, the smallest, most defenseless, the one that needed the most help was the little bitty baby sitting next to me," Whitaker said.

Flight 1549 has left its passengers feeling both blessed and, like the plane itself, scarred, but also changed.

"I take more risks now, I think," Bostic said. "I'm more open to doing a lot of things because you never know how long I've got to be here."

As for Sully, the passengers agreed without hesitation that his actions were heroic and that he, not they, deserves the spotlight of a Hollywood movie.

Flight 1549's lasting legacy may rest most profoundly in the hearts of its survivors.

 "No matter what happens, whether it's this event or anything else, I don't want something to stop me from living the life that I'm meant to live," Barnhardt said.


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