Hudson plane crash survivor talks about experience

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POSTED: Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 7:09pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 9:19pm

It started out like any other morning for Dave Sanderson. "It was a business day, doing exactly what I do everyday," he says. "Catching an early flight home."

But January 15th, 2009 quickly became the day his life changed forever. "When you think you're going to die, your whole life passes. I saw old girlfriends, my family, my mom, my grandma, little league baseball," says Sanderson. "I saw it like a movie."

Sanderson was the last passenger off of US Airways flight 1549, the plane that crash landed in the Hudson River. That's after a flock of birds, called an air strike, put both of the plane's engines out of commission just a few minutes after takeoff.

"The pilot only said three words. 'Brace for impact," he says. "He had to word it just right."

When the plane hit the river, it started taking on water quickly. Sanderson says he began helping people get off the plane. "For me, the right thing was you take care of other people first, and that's what I did," says Sanderson. "That's how I became the last person out of the plane."

Teamwork, kindness, and fast action by first responders were the key to survival. All 150 passengers and five crew members made it out alive.

"People say I'm the hero, but I think the first responders that put their lives out there for people everyday," says Sanderson. "The firemen, the policemen."

Thursday, he spent the the afternoon speaking to volunteers from the Red Cross in Baton Rouge. Red Cross touched his life several times after the plane went down, and had an enormous impact on him.

When they got to shore, Red Cross volunteers were there with blankets for every person aboard the flight. "I never thought I'd need Red Cross," says Sanderson. "A lot of people think that way and then the moment comes."

Their small acts of kindness made a big difference in the days following the crash. "They're there even when you don't think they're there," he said of the volunteers.

They were there when he got off the boat and they were in his hometown with his family when he arrived a day after the crash. Sanderson was so touched by their actions that he does what he can, today, to help the organization when he can.

Now, Anderson speaks all over the country, telling his story. "I have to do this. I don't really have an option," he explains. "If I don't do this, I may never have the opportunity to impact somebody again."

He is living proof that miracles do happen. "There are miracles happening every moment, every day," he says.

Learn more about the Louisiana Capitol Area Red Cross at http://www.batonrouge.redcross.org/

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