February Program, David Sanderson, Survivor of the "Miracle on the Hudson"

Speaking at the Groton Inn and Suites 


    February's EBMA meeting was held at the Groton Inn & Suites in Groton on Tuesday February 9, 2009.  David Sanderson, survivor of the “Miracle on the Hudson” air crash in February 2009, was the evening’s guest speaker.  Mr. Sanderson provided some news video footage of his wintry ordeal and put his mishap into perspective.  He shared interesting facts about the accident, the plane and the people involved.  He also talked about the aftermath and how the experience changed him forever. 


    At the end of the social hour, EBMA President, Joe Rossi brought the meeting to order. He welcomed members and guests and previewed upcoming events including the March 18th Dinner meeting which, he said, will feature a surprise guest speaker.  Scholarship night will follow on April 16th.  May 25th will be EB Night with John Casey as principal speaker.  The Childrens’ Easter Party will be held on March 21st (volunteers, he said, should contact either Carrie Pfieffer or Erick Cushman.)  Details of all future events can be found on the EBMA web site.  Board of Director elections will be held shortly, he said, energetic and committed members, willing to support EBMA ideals and objectives should apply. 


     He then recognized retiring member, Sue-Ellen Nugent and presented her with a lifetime membership card.  He thanked Tom and Judy Bogue for their help with table assignments and recognized Judy for planning tonight’s dinner.   He thanked Mike Tsao and Jim Costello for their ongoing efforts. Dan Williams, D604 then led the Pledge of Allegiance and Carrie Pffiefer, D455, recited the prayer. 


     After dinner, Joe introduced Dave Sanderson, survivor of doomed flight 1549.  Dave was on the wrong plane at the wrong time, Joe said.  After the crash landing, Sanderson helped his fellow passengers escape.  In fact, Joe said, Dave was the last passenger to leave the water-logged craft.  Please welcome Dave Sanderson.  Members applauded politely.   


    Dave thanked Joe for his kind introduction noting that he was honored to appear before audiences and relate what had transpired on the Hudson River that day.  He noted he’d spoken to 118 audiences since the accident.  “I took away four things from my experience” he said, “the importance of Teamwork, Leadership, Resourcefulness and the Power of Faith.  Take-off to hospital bed took only 30 minutes, he said.  The New York/New Jersey first responders quickly arrived in frigid conditions.  There’s not a better place to crash-land, than into the Hudson River, he said.


     A sales manager for Oracle, Sanderson logs more than 100,000 air miles annually.  Although he was on board flight 1549, because of a last minute switch, he believes that everything happens for a reason.  He ignored the flight attendant’s instructions about exit locations and floatation devices.  (“I always listen to those instructions now,” he said)  The plane took off.  Sixty seconds later he heard a bang and a terrible smell wafted through the cabin.  “I thought we had lost an engine,” he said.  As the plane rapidly descended, there was an eerie silence.  No one panicked, he said, one woman uttered a prayer.  “Brace for impact,” said Captain Sullivan, a certified glider pilot, as he aimed for the middle of the river.  The force of the contact, Sanderson said, was tremendous


     Once the plane belly-flopped into the river the seat backs collapsed, the water rose and the passengers made for the exits walking on top of the collapsed seats.  Sanderson made sure he had identification on his person.  It had been a perfect landing, he said, the pilot had kept the fuel on board to increase the plane’s buoyancy.  Someone tried to open a rear door, allowing more 36 degree water to flood in.  Soon it was waist deep.  Within three minutes, he said, ferries, tugs and lifeboats arrived.  All of the passengers, except Sanderson, stood out on the wings calmly awaiting rescue.  Passengers relied on teamwork to get organized and onto lifeboats.  Unwilling to risk overloading a boat, Sanderson swam towards an approaching ferry.  “I cashed in everything that I’d learned,” he said.  He thanked his recently deceased mother for insisting he learn how to swim as a child.


     He was soon in a New Jersey hospital with a dangerously low core temperature and high blood pressure.  “It took them four hours to thaw me out,” he said.  He was treated and released the next day.  In the media frenzy that followed he credited the pilot for landing the plane safely, the passengers for their calm resourcefulness and the selflessness of the first responders.  He thanked the American Red Cross for its help and support.  Blind in one eye from the jet fuel in the river, without either a suitcase or a ticket, he boarded another plane for home. 


     Since then he has travelled the country telling his story at churches and business luncheons.  One woman rushed up to him and grabbed his arm.  “I just wanted to touch the physical evidence of a miracle,” she said.  He’s met with airline pilots, airline employees, engineers and safety groups.  The lessons he learned that day are fairly basic: the benefits of “pulling together as a team,” the resourcefulness of ordinary people under duress, and the power of faith.  Everyone believed we would get out safely and we did, he said.  He thanked the audience for attending the evening’s event and answered nearly a dozen questions from the audience.  



      Mr. Sanderson was given another round of applause and then, after a motion to adjourn was made and seconded, members headed out to their cars, eyes no doubt peeled for low-flying Canadian Geese.




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