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Welcome home, Capt. Sully

Storm clouds don't deter thousands from celebrating hometown 'hero'

Threatening skies didn't dampen the enthusiam of thousands of Danville area residents who turned out Saturday to welcome home Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, the "Hero of the Hudson."

Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River after it struck a flock of geese and lost both its engines, received a hero's welcome, complete with marching bands and proclamations.

Mayor Newell Arnerich presided over the event, which was held on the Town Green near Danville Library. "Clearly there are 155 reasons," a smiling Arnerich stated, "why our town is celebrating his courage under extreme circumstances."

Arnerich said he'd been contacted by people from all over the world offering their congratulations to Sullenberger. Included in those calls were Sir Richard Branson and Arnerich's own son, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. "My son said to tell you, Captain, that his unit would fly with you anywhere, anytime."

Arnerich presented Sullenberger with a key to the city, only the second time such an honor had been bestowed in the 150-year history of Danville.

U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., 11th) praised the courage and dedication of Sullenberger and his flight crew. He said that pilots and crew are trained to handle trouble, but there is always the question of what they will do when that day comes.

"On Jan. 15, trouble found Capt. Sullenberger. He had no more than two minutes to safely set that aircraft down. He did what he was trained to do," McNerney said.

McNerney said it was Sullenberger's calm and leadership which made that landing happen, and he applauded the captain's dedication to duty in staying with the aircraft until all passengers were safely off.

The huge crowd roared its approval when Sullenberger's wife Lorrie took the stage. Due to a request from the US Airline Pilots Association, the family is still restricted from speaking about the crash itself, but it didn't stop Lorrie Sullenberger from talking about the man flying the plane.

"I knew when I married Sully that he was the most honorable man I've ever met," she said through tears. She went on to say that she had no doubt of the outcome of the plane crash, because she knows what kind of pilot her husband is.

Sullenberger said she and her family had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and praise they've received. "There's no words to express how grateful we are for all of you. We were so thrilled to come home to Danville. I have to say, we love Danville!"

Finally, Capt. Sullenberger himself took the podium, amid standing ovations and thunderous applause. After thanking everyone for coming he said simply, "Circumstance determined that it was this experienced crew that was scheduled to fly that particular plane on that particular day. But I know I can speak for the entire crew when I tell you we were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do."

After the ceremony was completed, the Sullenbergers, along with family and friends were treated to a reception inside the Danville Library.

Many of those who came couldn't see well due to the enormous crowds, estimated by police at 5,000, but it didn't alter their joy at being there. "What a great welcome," said resident Andrea Grout, "I think they did a great job. And they did it in such a short time."

Grout's daughter, Victoria, 6, said she most enjoyed Lorrie Sullenberger. "I thought it was cool when Mrs. Sullenberger talked. He did a great thing getting those people off the plane."

Monte Vista High School Junior Megan Gordon said knowing Sullenberger was from Danville made her proud, and seeing all the people who turned out for the celebration was a testament to the type of town Danville is. "It kind of makes me feel like I live in this small town," she said. "I don't know everyone in my class but look at this, how everyone is coming together to honor him."

Danville resident Peter Adams agreed. "It's not often that we get to honor a real hero, instead of a celebrity hero." He added, "It makes me nostalgic about the way small town America is. Everyone knows each other, and helps each other out."

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1 person likes this
Posted by Bradley A. Blakeman
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I knew it was just a matter of time when a politician would find a way to politicize the heroism of US Air Captain Sullenberger. Like millions of Americans I tuned into Saturday's live television coverage of the Danville Hometown Ceremonies honoring their most famous resident, Captain Sullenberger. The Master of Ceremonies was Mayor Newell Arnerich a Democrat. The tragic accident occurred on January 18, 2009. President Bush while still our President called Captain Sullenberger to offer his congratulations. Yet, mysteriously there was no mention of President Bush in the Proclamation read by Mayor Arnerich. Curiously, there was the mention and inclusion of President Obama. The omission of President Bush was intentional and political. The Mayor and the City Council should be ashamed of themselves. To politicize this event is a disgrace and brings great shame on their town.

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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Danville
on Jan 25, 2009 at 9:56 am

Shame on you!
Hopefully no one else will respond to your attempt to make this another one of YOUR forums for more your old divisive republican rhetoric. Last I checked a new movement is in town, maybe try a unified approach. Sorry your old boss & party is out of the office.

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Posted by Steve Fenton
a resident of Danville
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm

What many readers may not realize what made Sully's skill such a unique and herculian accomplishment was the fact that the aircraft, with both engines out is like trying to fly a bathtub. The commercial jet had becom a simple "glider". The only way to maintain any response over the air control-surfaces (the wings and tail) was to maintain a steady and rapid decent of the aircraft. Sully's training would have had him, by second nature, noting alternate landing zones the moment after takeoff. What is noteable is the experience Sully demonstrated by ditching the plane with the rear of the fuselage making first contact with the water to instantly bleed-off as much airspeed as possible (a fraction of a second) before the wings with the heavy engines crashed downward. While the engines are somewhat aero dynamic they are not water dynamic and could have torn both wings off at any greater speed than Sullyy put it down at, creating a body count instead of a live-soul passenger manifest.

I have known the Sullenberger family for years. Knowing Sully, the overwhelming attention for his heroics is not his cup-of-chowder. He is a mild-mannered, soft spoken man, yet "sharp as an arrow in a pile of glass". His intuition surfaced in the wake of years of ambition. It was comforting to see Lorrie describing to the world what she has known about Sully all along. Only one question remains: "Did U.S. Air charge the passengers for a boat ride on top of the airfare?"

Steve Fenton

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Posted by Amory Gutierrez, Danville Weekly
a resident of Danville
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Here is a poem sent by Garry Souders, a resident from Oklahoma. Really shows how Sully has put Danville on the map! Enjoy!

"A Pilot so Bold
Oh man that guy could fly
He glided that thing right out of the sky
Onto the Hudson the river so cold
He landed right there this man so bold

His engines were clogged with geese galore
So he aimed the plane at the rivers shore
Calm cool and collected was he
The plane simply glided power free

Skip skip slosh and splash
Passengers out on the wing in a dash
There they stood all in a row
Waiting for someone to give them a tow

Boats from all over the place
Running to help, joining the race
Passengers brave, crewman smart
All out the windows with pounding heart

Rescued each and every one
To live on and see againthe sun
To the pilot we turn in awe
The best damn flying we ever saw"

Like this comment
Posted by Amory Gutierrez, Danville Weekly
a resident of Danville
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm

The Germans join us in honoring our world hero. Visit:


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Posted by B Lynn Goodwin
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I understand the controversy over financial concerns, but I am glad that we had the joy of honoring a hometown hero. Kudos to all who contributed on such short notice. Thank you, Captain Sullenberger for bringing positive national coverage to Danville.

B. Lynn Goodwin

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