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Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Reunite

A year after 155 people lived through the water landing of an incapacitated US Airways flight in the middle of the frigid Hudson River, many of them gathered Friday to celebrate the anniversary of their unlikely survival.

A crowd of about 100 applauded as Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, smiling and wearing his pilot's uniform, arrived for a breakfast. Rescuers were thanked at the event, which launched a day of activities.

"We're so happy to have so much to celebrate. We have so much to be grateful for," Sullenberger said.

Later, they gathered at a ferry terminal on Manhattan's West Side, where they were to embark on a jaunt to the very spot where the pilot deftly set down his Airbus A320 on Jan. 15, 2009, after a flock of geese disabled its engines.

Just like it was a year ago, the weather was cold, and some people were worried about going into the river.

"A little nervous," said flight attendant Doreen Welsh, who developed a fear of water after she was submerged up to her chin in the flooded aircraft. She said she began crying when another flight attendant pointed out the spot in the terminal where she had laid on a gurney after being rescued.

"It brought it all back," she said.

At 3:31 p.m., the moment of impact, passengers, boat crews and other rescuers were to raise glasses in a toast to life aboard one of the ferries that plucked them from the icy water.

Sullenberger told CBS News correspondent Seth Doane that the event served as a reminder of what's important in life.

"I think each of us in their own way is trying to find out how to be truer to ourselves," Sullenberger said. "And live a fuller, better life because of it."

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Forty-eight of the passengers on Flight 1549 were participating in the day's events, including Laura Zych and Ben Bostic of Charlotte, N.C., who started dating after the splashdown's six-month anniversary.

Life, said Bostic, is "a lot better. I'm more open to opportunities. I appreciate everything."

Chimed in Zych: "We don't take anything for granted. We celebrated the one-month anniversary, two, three, four. We've been waiting for this day."

Bostic said he still feels "a little anxiety" about flying. But he said having Zych with him makes it easier.

Sullenberger said that, to date, he has met two-thirds of the passengers and hoped to meet all of them eventually.

At the ferry terminal, he was mobbed by well-wishers, including a tearful Hannah Acton, whose husband, Patrick, was on the flight.

"Thank you so much," she said, clutching a copy of Sullenberger's book to her chest.

Later, she recalled the dread she felt after getting a call that her husband's plane had gone down, then not knowing for 23 minutes whether he was dead or alive as she watched the rescue on television.

"I was hysterical," she said. "I thought, 'Oh my God, now I'm watching my husband die."

American Red Cross of Greater New York CEO Theresa Bischoff introduced Gov. David Paterson at the gathering, crediting him with coining the phrase "Miracle on the Hudson."

"It was the happiest day I have spent or ever will spend as governor," Paterson said.

Sullenberger's co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles called all the rescuers, from the fire and police departments to ferry and boat operators, "the true heroes of that day."

Skiles then made a $5,000 donation to the American Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti. He made the check in the name of the victims of the fatal crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y. last February.

Bank of America, which had 20 employees on the flight, presented the Red Cross with a $21,549 donation for Haiti relief. Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the Haiti earthquake, saying, "it's great that an organization like the Red Cross ... is always there."

The return to the water has brought up mixed feelings for some of the survivors. But many are eager to reunite with the others who shared in the harrowing experience. Some say they consider the group to be a kind of family.

"It does bring back memories of being out there and what we went through," Bostic said previously. "But with those memories, it also reinforces that gratitude we have."

Whether it's traveling together or just spending quiet time with each other, Bostic says he's intent on making sure he doesn't miss out on anything. After all, there could be another encounter with death at any time.

"If it happens," he said, "it's going to happen this time without any regrets."

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