Flight 1549: Friends For Life

Some two dozen heads shaking up and down simultaneously -- the scene on the set of The Early Show Monday as passengers from "Miracle on the Hudson" Flight 1549 answered affirmatively when co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked whether they'd be friends for life, sharing a bond with each other, the crew, and those who raced to their rescue that fateful day.

Hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger agreed, saying, "I think all of us share a bond that was forged that day. All of us share the same bond. With the first responders. This was a team effort on the part of the crew, on the part of the passengers who all behaved so admirably throughout, and the first responders, we are all linked by this event."

Rodriguez also got a collective "Yes" when she asked whether there's life before Flight 1549 and after, and whether they all think about that day, every single day.

The crew, many passengers, several of their relatives, and one of the first responders gathered on The Early Show, the morning after Sullenberger and crew members recalled Flight 1549 for CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric on the CBS News broadcast 60 Minutes. Many of them were reuniting for the first time since the emergency landing in New York's Hudson River.

Emotions flowed freely.

Sullenberger told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, as he did Couric, that it's as if he spent his entire career preparing for Flight 1549.

"The way I describe it," he told Smith, "is, for 42 years, I had made small, regular deposits of education, training and experience. And the experience balance was sufficient that, on Jan. 15, I could make a sudden, large withdrawal." The passengers applauded and chuckled.

"And could I just say," Smith added, "are we glad the bank was open that day!"

Passengers and crew embraced warmly at different times during the show. Passengers and relatives offered poignant words of thanks. Many told their stories from the day, and some passengers, for the first time, got to thank directly the crew member who'd assisted them. Sullenberger thanked his colleagues, and all thanked the first responders.

In one case, it was a flight attendant lauding the New York City police officer who'd come to her aid. Doreen Welsh was surprised when Ed McDonald was introduced, and they hugged tightly. Welsh suffered a significant leg injury, and McDonald accompanied her to the hospital. McDonald said Welsh was "obviously scared" and, in the ambulance, looked up at him and said, "Please don't leave me." He didn't. He stayed long enough to assure Welsh when she woke up from surgery. He even greeted Welsh's son when he got to the hospital.
Diane Higgins and her mother, Lucille Palmer, were sitting next to each other on the plane. Higgins was having trouble helping Palmer after the landing, they recounted for Rodriguez, when Palmer said to her daughter, "Just leave me." And, Higgins continued the story, "I said, 'Mom, I'm not going to just leave you."'  Why would Palmer tell Higgins to leave her? "Well," responded Palmer, "I wanted her to get out. It was more important. She's younger than me." A tearful Higgins embraced her mom when she heard those words. Later, both got to express their gratitude to the flight attendany who got Palmer onto a rescue raft.

Here are many of the show's gripping, memorable moments: