Captain Sullenberger said he has developed a strong bond with the passengers over the years after having saved their lives.
It has been 14 years since Captain 'Sully' saved 155 passengers after he landed the plane in the Hudson river as an emergency option. Even after all those years, they still feel indebted to him for what he has done for them. "We're like extended family," Sullenberger said about one of the passengers whom he saved. They celebrated a reunion to mark the 14th anniversary of the Hudson River lander on January 12. Captain Sullenberger said, "We have become bonded." And so I think over the passing years I feel evermore gratitude that we were able to achieve such a good outcome and save every life," as reported by PEOPLE. The passengers share similar emotions. Pam Seagle said, "We're eternally grateful and indebted to him." She works for the Bank of India as its Global Women's Programs executive. As soon as she saw Captain "Sully" she went and gave him a big hug. "There's always this strong connection," said Seagle. "And he is a hugger. He embraces everyone. We have an incredible bond."
Another passenger, Barry Leonard, 69, who cracked his sternum due to the water landing in 2009, is so grateful for the friendships that he organizes annual reunions with passengers and responders in New York. Leonard said, "Usually there's a lot of tears around the table." He added, "It's also just to toast life; we all understand that we've gotten a bonus second life here for 14 years."
He called Sullenberg "a hero" who has become a friend now. "I can't say enough great things about Captain Sullenberger, and what he's done to impact, not just the lives of the people on the plane, but also the children, the grandchildren, the extended family." Leonard wants Sullenberger to meet his grandson who is named Hudson. He said, "And, I know, Sully's looking forward to meeting Hudson."
On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson river. The plane had earlier taken off from New York's LaGuardia Airport, the plane hit a flock of geese which disabled its two engines. The 155 passengers were saved due to the water landing and called it the "Miracle on the Hudson." Sullenberger said, "I certainly remember it vividly." "It was a traumatic experience certainly for everyone in the airplane and for the families to go through something like that."
Sullenberger was calm throughout the time and double-checked that the aircraft was empty. He said, "Had even one person not survived, I would've considered it a tragic failure [that] I would've felt deeply for the rest of my life." Sullenberger came into the limelight after the story of Flight 1549 was made into a movie called "Sully: Miracle on the Hudson." However, the pilot doesn't want to take full credit.
Sullenberger said, "I couldn't have done the whole thing by myself. It took many to save every life." He credited co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles, other crew members, first responders, and New York Waterway "whose ferry pulled us from the frigid Hudson," he added.
He is no longer a commercial pilot and now lives in Northern California. Sullenberger is an author and works as a public speaker and aviation expert. He also served as US Ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recently.