The former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot honored the people who's lives were changed when he successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009

By Madison Roberts Michelle Boudin
January 15, 2019 06:40 PM

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is marking the ten year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson by sharing the mementos he kept from the day that changed his life.

The former Air Force fighter pilot who successfully landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River in New York City after it collided with a flock of geese, knocking out both engines, honored all those impacted by the events of Jan. 15, 2009, with a  heartfelt post on Instagram.

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“10 years ago today the lives of everyone on #Flight1549 changed forever,” he writes. “On that day, we proved what is possible when a dedicated group of people rises to the occasion, remembers their common humanity, and works together. When we do that, there is little we cannot accomplish.”

The message was shared alongside an image of the fuel distribution sheet, a physical reminder of the fateful flight, and several other photos from the landing and water recovery.


Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger Instagram

In an interview with ABC News, Sullenberger spoke about the things he kept to remind him of that day, including the few pieces of the flight paperwork, the weather report and forecast,  fuel slip that specified how much gas the plane had for the flight, and his trip sheet with the schedule of flights for his next four days of flying.

Steven Day/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“10 years later, these are the things that stay with me: the professionalism of the crew and air traffic controllers, the cooperation of passengers, the bravery of the rescuers and first responders, and the enduring love of my family,” Sullenberger continues. “I celebrate these things every day.”

Sullenberger and 80 survivors of the crash gathered at Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the plane is now permanently displayed, on Tuesday.

Jon Staryhorn/Courtesy Carolina's Aviation Museum

At 3:31PM, the exact time that Flight 1549 hit the water, they had a champagne toast. Passenger Barry Leonard lead the toast and Captain Sullenberger lead the countdown.

Some say it was a celebratory moment. Others say it was somber.

“We were all there at the bank of the plane and Sully lead us in a countdown and we raised our glasses in celebration. It was really a special moment,” passenger Beverly Waters told PEOPLE.
Michael Leonard, another survivor, said, “Today was amazing. To realize, we all made it. We all made it!”

In 2016, Sullenburger, who affectionately became known as “Captain Sully” told PEOPLE that he was struggling to accept the label of “hero,” and revealed that he still stays in regular contact with the group of grateful passengers whose lives he saved.

Jon Staryhorn/Courtesy Carolina's Aviation Museum

“I resisted the H word initially,” Sullenberger said. “But I certainly have grown to understand people’s need to feel the way they feel about this event and, by extension, about me.”

That same year, he was the subject of the film Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Tom Hanks.

In the segment with ABC News, the now-retired pilot said, “I never had any extraneous thoughts in those few seconds that we had. I didn’t allow myself to and I didn’t have any inclination to. I never thought about my family. I never thought about anything other than controlling the flight path and solving each problem in turn until, finally, we had solved them all.”

Bebeto Matthews/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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He adds, “I think about not only what we did but what everybody else did. All the pieces had to come together. This group of strangers had to rise to the occasion and make sure that they saved every life.”