On this day five years ago, 155 lives were saved by the heroic actions of one man. Not long after Charlotte-bound U.S. Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport, the aircraft hit several birds and lost control of both its engines. Thanks to the heroism and quick thinking of the plane's pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and co-pilot First Officer Jeff Skiles landed the plane in the frigid Hudson River and brought every passenger to safety. The landing was called the "most successful ditching in aviation history."
Today, the survivors returned to the landing spot of the crash to commemorate the events that occurred five years ago and the pilot who saved their lives. Countless others shared their sentiments online. Here are some moving responses to the event, both from five years ago and from today, that offer lessons on the heroism, courage and wonder of Sullenberger's miraculous landing on the Hudson.
Anyone can positively change the lives of others.
Almost immediately after the crash, Captain Sullenberger was hailed as a hero and celebrated by national and global media. And while Sullenberger's years of experience played an important role in helping him to successfully navigate the difficult landing, Sullenberger emphasized in later interviews that heroism is a choice that anyone can make. A hero, by definition, is someone who shows courage by choosing to put themselves at risk to help others.
And it's a choice that will never be forgotten by those affected. Five years after the event took place, thousands took to Twitter to praise Sullenberger's heroism.
It's been 5 years since Captain Sully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. What a hero. Time does fly. pic.twitter.com/lohEfCCKbQ
— Brendon Geoffrion (@tvbrendon) January 15, 2014
— Chris Wragge (@ChrisWragge) January 15, 2014
Social media can be a powerful connector.
The fateful day was also a landmark for social media, as the first picture of the event was posted on Twitter and spread like wildfire across the Internet. Jānis Krūms, the ferry passenger who took the viral photo, said that the experience opened his eyes to the power of social media.
"Twitter has opened up opportunities for people to share what's important and for the world to see that message," Krūms wrote on Mashable today.
Krūms noted that while there's a time and a place for social media, he's also come to realize the value of unplugging from technology.
"I've had to remember the joy of being present with friends and family," Krūms wrote. "Just put the phone away. Listen to your significant other. Actually talk to your mom without checking Facebook. The truly meaningful conversations happen offline."
Gratitude can completely reframe our experiences.
Gratitude helped Sullenberger -- who has called himself the "eternal optimist" -- to change the way he thought about the event, from focusing on the things that obviously went wrong to looking at everything that went right and enabled him to save the lives of the 155 passengers.
"If there's anything that's changed since that day... it's that I appreciate more what went right," Sullenberger said in an interview with Katie Couric last year.
An experience that could have easily killed Sullenberger and the other passengers, instead taught the pilot -- along with many of the survivors -- to appreciate every moment of being alive.
"Having that gratitude in life has really changed my perspective... I don't sweat the small stuff as much as I used to," survivor Dave Sanderson told NBC News.
— Sully Sullenberger (@Captsully) January 14, 2014
Near-death experiences can put life in perspective.
Ric Elias was sitting in seat 1D when flight 1459 plummeted into the Hudson, and the experience changed his life forever. In a TED talk two years later, Elias recalled what he learned about himself on the day of the crash. More than anything else, it made him realize the importance of devoting his life, day in and day out, to what meant the most to him -- his family.
"It all changes in an instant," Elias said. "I no longer want to postpone anything. That urgency, that purpose, has really changed my life."