At a celebratory breakfast on Friday, Jan. 15, on the anniversary of US Airways Flight 1549’s dramatic emergency landing on the icy Hudson River on January 15, 2009, passengers and crew members expressed their thanks to the American Red Cross for the help and emotional support they received after the landing. The breakfast, hosted by Mutual of America at its Park Avenue headquarters in Manhattan, was attended by 50 of the 155 passengers, the plane’s crew of 5, led by Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III, and 75 guests, including New York State Governor David Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Dozens of representatives from local and national TV, radio and newspapers were also on hand to cover the event.
The morning’s many speakers praised the Red Cross for its support on January 15, 2009, and its work with people in need throughout the year. Flight 1549 passenger, Theresa Leahy, lauded the volunteers and staff from the American Red Cross in Greater New York and the Red Cross of Northern New Jersey. She said, “This is our big hug to thank you.” Captain Sullenberger recalled the day of the landing, “It felt as if all of New York and New Jersey was out to embrace us—and when they did embrace us, it was with blankets from the Red Cross.”
U.S. Airways Flight 1549 was en route to Charlotte, North Caroline, from New York’s La Guardia Airport on January 15, 2009, when it struck a flock of geese which disabled the aircraft and forced it to land on the river. Everyone on board safely evacuated the plane. Minutes later, volunteers and employees from the American Red Cross in Greater New York were on the scene at the NY Piers, where many passengers were ferried by rescue boats; relief workers from the northern New Jersey Red Cross assisted passengers who were ferried to the New Jersey side of the river. Red Cross provided hot beverages, socks, sweat suits, warm blankets, mental-health counseling and more to passengers and crew members.
Jeffrey Skiles, Flight 1549’s co-pilot, praised the organization’s volunteers and employees as heroes for their help that day, and presented the Red Cross with a personal check for $5,000. NYC Bank of America President, Jeff Barker, and Senior Vice President of Media at Bank of America, Pam Seagle, who was a passenger on Flight 1549, also presented the Red Cross with a check, for $21,549—one thousand dollars for each of the 20 Bank of America associates who were on Flight 1549, plus an extra, symbolic, $1,549.
Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, US Airways CEO & Chairman of Doug Parker, NY Red Cross Chairman of the Board Ira Millstein, NY Red Cross Chairman Emeritus William Gray, and NY Red Cross CEO Theresa Bischoff also spoke at the event. Ms. Bischoff thanked Flight 1549’s passengers and crew “for the opportunity to thank our Greater New York responders and staff.”
One of the last to address the attendees, passenger Clay Presley, (“Seat 15D”), draped a Red Cross blanket across his shoulders and said, “We were wet, cold and emotionally exhausted. The Red Cross provided real emotional support when we needed it.” He went on to ask for donations to the organization for its local and international relief efforts, in particular, its humanitarian response to the earthquake in Haiti earlier his week