Miracle on the Hudson crew member
When US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed into New York’s Hudson River in 2010, Doreen Welsh thought that her life was over. Doreen had been working as a flight attendant for 38 years and says that she`s had some interesting incidents in her career, but none like the experience that was to become known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."
There were 150 passengers, the pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, and three flight attendants, including 58-year-old Welsh, on board when the plane went down in the Hudson.
About a minute after take-off those on board felt as if the plane hit something. That something happened to be birds—big birds—which took out both of the airliner’s two engines.
Doreen, working the back section of the airplane, thought they were just going to circle around and land, having made quick returns to the airport a number of times in the past. Instead, as she fastened her safety belt, she heard the three words for which she had trained for 38 years, but words she thought she would never hear in her entire career, "BRACE FOR IMPACT!" Doreen had 90 seconds until impact! Ninety seconds in which she knew instinctively would be her last in this world. The world was in slow motion as the pilot had to land the plane on the frigid Hudson River.
Landing tail section first, the aft end of the airplane struck the water particularly hard. “It felt like we hit something. People up front said it was like a hard landing but it felt like a crash to me. It was very violent in the rear of the airplane.” A hole was torn in the bottom of the aircraft 18 inches from Doreen's seat and metal twisted in to her leg.
That’s when the masks dropped and things flew from the aft galley, some hitting Doreen. The scene was surreal. After coming to a stop in the water, passengers rushed back toward Doreen to get to the aft doors. These exits were unusable as they were below the Hudson water. Doreen had to stop one woman who was frantically trying to open a door. With icy water rising quickly from a hole torn in the tail, Doreen had the difficult job of turning the confused passengers around and directing them to the wing exits. She told passengers to climb over their seats and keep the aisle free for those who can’t climb. “Get to the windows! Get to the windows!” she commanded, as water continued to pour into the aft section of the airplane. Although she didn’t realize it at the time due to an adrenaline rush, the left leg of this 38-year veteran of the skies had been penetrated by a 12 inch piece of angle iron. Up to her chin in frigid water at this point, Doreen pushed a few lagging passengers over the back seats and made her way forward to the emergency wing exits, where she was astonished to find passengers standing on the wings. “I didn’t know the entire airplane wasn’t filling up with water like my part of the plane was,” she said. “I thought I might actually live through this.”
It wasn’t until her aft passengers were safely off the plane that she realized her leg was injured and that blood was coming from her mouth – “I bit my tongue on impact,” she said.
Pulling herself to the front of the plane, bruised, battered, pants ripped, leg bleeding, mouth bleeding, completely drenched and with a post-crash hairdo, she found the other two flight attendants dry and perfectly groomed. “Everything was calm up front,” said Doreen. “It was as if there had been two entirely different accidents.”