Passengers exit downed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009.
Some found God. Two found love. Most found a second family.
In the year since they walked off Flight 1549 with a new lease on life, most of the 151 people aboard have concluded the traumatic ordeal was actually a blessing.
“I believe that 1549 was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” said Brad Wentzell of Charlotte, N.C., who helped a mother and baby off the plane and dragged a drowning man from the frigid Hudson.
“I don’t worry about stuff anymore. There were a lot of things that I used to beat myself up about, things that I couldn’t get out of my brain. After what happened, I was able to forgive myself and move on. I actually sleep better now.
“Sometimes a nice plane crash is exactly what the doctor ordered,” Wentzell said.
The passengers and crew about the US Airways jet spent two minutes certain they were going to die as their plane, disabled by a flock of geese, lost altitude as it tried to take off over New York City Jan 15, 2009.
Instead, cucumber-cool pilot Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger glided them down to a textbook splashdown onto the icy river.
Mark Hood, a medical equipment salesman from Charlotte, said staring down death – and having death blink – has been “a rebirth.”
“I view the world differently now. When I came out of the door of that plane and took that first breath of cold, clear air, it was a new beginning. The touch of my wife, hugging my kids – all new,” he said.
Hood, already a man of strong faith, has become more openly religious – and more open in general, he said.
“I’ve always been a very closed person emotionally,” said Hood, 49, a Marine veteran of Operation Desert Storm who now regularly speaks to church groups about what happened. “The nice part of the experience is I was able to open up.”
Two groups of passengers collaborated on books, though no one is getting rich. The real payoff, they say, is the strong bonds that have formed among the travelers who took a five-minute flight from LaGuardia to the river.
Denise Lockie, the exec who was in seat 2C next to Hood, has become a friend: She spent Thanksgiving with his family.
Gifts every day
And in what may be one of the all time best “meet cute” stories, software developer Ben Bostic, 39, and department store manager Laura Zych, 31 – who didn’t meet the day of the crash – fell in love six months later when they were introduced at a reunion in Charlotte.
“Life gives you gifts every single day if you look for them,” Bostic said he learned.
Wentzell, 32, now calls his 63-year-old crash buddy and fellow Boston transplant Carl Bazarian “Uncle Carl.” They saved people together and flew home to Charlotte together hours after the mishap. Since then, they’ve done joint TV interviews, shared dinners, become authors and gotten a private tour of Fenway Park, courtesy of the Red Sox.