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‘Miracle on the Hudson’ survivor in Camden Thursday

Part of local American Red Cross fundraiser

Posted: March 18, 2014 4:37 p.m.
Updated: March 19, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Courtesy of Dave Sanderson/

Dave Sanderson (second from left) watches as Flight 1549 Capt. Chesley “Sully” B. Sullenberger (far right) and his co-pilot meet with an official.

“Brace for impact” -- three terrifying words one hopes never to have to hear.

But those words came to life for the 154 passengers and crew on board US Airways Flight 1549. One of those passengers was Dave Sanderson and, he said, his life would never be the same.

Sanderson will be in Camden on Thursday night at the Rutledge Street Gallery for the Kershaw County Advisory Board of the American Red Cross’ annual “Wine Tasting and Silent Auction.” The event is free and open to the public. It will be held from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.

On Jan. 15, 2009, with less than one minute in the air, Capt. Chesley “Sully” B. Sullenberger, Flight 1549’s pilot, told his passengers and crew to brace for impact.

The passengers immediately followed orders as they put their heads in their laps and started praying. The plane, an Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, N.C., had collided with a flock of birds during takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. With both engines out, Sullenberger -- a cool-headed former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot -- maneuvered his crowded jetliner over the city and ditched it in to the frigid waters of the Hudson River. Passengers held tight to one another on the partially submerged wings as ferries and rescue boats rushed in.

All 155 on board were pulled to safety as the plane slowly sank. It was, then New York Gov. David Paterson said, “a miracle on the Hudson.” Witnesses said Captain “Sully” appeared to have guided the plane down, performing the airplane to the exact precision to which it was made.

Every life was saved.

But life would not be the same for any of them, including Sanderson, who has since raised more than $7 million for the American Red Cross.

Through a combination of emails and references to his website, Sanderson said he knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be Jan. 15, 2009. The last passenger off the back of the plane, he said he was largely responsible for the well-being and safety of others, risking his own life in the frigid waters of the Hudson to help other passengers to safety. Despite the hazards to himself, Sanderson said he thought only of helping others, and emerged from the wreckage with a mission: to encourage others to do the right thing.

Sanderson said he believes we all have opportunities in our lives, in times of uncertainty to rise above adversity and make a difference -- and that we can all “create our own flight plan.”

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