Captain "Sully" On Life After The Crash

Seeing him that first day was a real shock. He was a changed man.

Steady. Calm. Honorable. Those are the words that Lorrie Sullenberger used to describe her 58-year-old husband, who is now known to the world just as "Sully."

In their nearly 20 years of marriage, he has been a man of consistency - not of change.

But that was before January 14, when 90 seconds in to Flight 1549, a bird strike caused both engines to fail. Captain Chesley Sullengerger had to ditch an Airbus A320 into the Hudson River.

"I knew I had to find a way out of this box I found myself in," told CBS News anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview on 60 Minutes.

As a result of his skilled landing and 155 survivors, he's been transformed into an instant celebrity.

"It's been intense," he said. "It's been a blur. The first few days were difficult."

Despite a near-perfect outcome, Sully still wonders what more he could have done.

"I still feel a responsibility for everything that happened. That's literally part of the job," he said. "It's that good, bad or indifferent, that's the captain's responsibility."

Meanwhile, at their home in in Danville, Calif., he and his wife say the word "hero" makes them both uncomfortable.

"Sully was thrust into a situation, and did what he knew to do. It wasn't a situation of his choosing. I'm proud of him. I am immensely proud of him. And I'm grateful to have him home. But I don't think of him as a hero, either, I'm afraid," Lorrie Sullenberger said.

But he was prepared. After getting his pilot's license at age 16, he flew as a fighter pilot in the Air Force and has flown commercially for 30 years.

He's an expert on accidents, he has trained pilots and crews in emergency procedures and has written extensively about how crews react in crises.

"Could there been anyone on the planet better equipped to fly that plane that day?" Couric asked.

"Yeah, thousands," Sullenberger said. "But it just happened to be me."

Ten days after the accident, he was back home, a hero in public, but a husband and father in private,

"I wasn't able to connect with them emotionally right away, the way I hoped I would," he said.

Spending time with his wife and two daughters, reading the cards and letters - from thousands of them from strangers all around the world - has helped him reconnect.

His wife, Lorrie, said: "I've told him he's reached Santa Claus status. We get letters from England addressed to Captain Sullenberger, Danville, Calif. And they arrive."

And coming face-to-face once more with the passengers of 1549 was a reminder not only of the lives saved, but the families brought closer together.

Including his own.

"Not a day goes by," Sullenberger said, looking at pictures of his wife, "that I don't kiss her or touch her or sit down and really listen closely to what my daughters say to me."

Sounds like it's given a greater appreciation for your family," Couric said.

"It has," Sullenberger said. "And for my life."
  • Katie Couric

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