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Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger calls for unity on anniversary of 'Miracle on the Hudson'

The hero pilot says the teamwork that helped 155 passengers survive Flight 1549 in 2009 should inspire similar unity during a dark time in America.
/ Source: TODAY

Hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger made a call for Americans to "unify as one community" amid the surging pandemic and last week's violent riot at the U.S. Capitol as he marked the 12th anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson" on Friday.

Sullenberger, 69, was heralded for his performance under extreme pressure when he safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City in 2009, saving the lives of all 155 people on board after both engines were disabled by a bird strike.

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Ahead of Friday's anniversary, he posted messages on Twitter and Instagram recalling the team effort needed to save everyone aboard Flight 1549 and how that message applies to the current state of the country.

"It’s hard to believe that this Friday, January 15, will mark the 12 year anniversary of #Flight1549. It was a day when unforeseen crisis impacted the lives of many and forced passengers, crew members and first responders to overcome the unknown by doing one thing: working together," he wrote.

"This is something I have been reminded of often over the past several months, and especially in recent days as we’ve witnessed the extreme effects of polarization within our country come to an unimaginable peak.

"Our world has become consumed by many different crises, from the global pandemic, to racial injustices, to the recent events of incitement of insurrection in our nation’s Capitol," he continued. "Now more than ever, we must unify as one community and work together to protect the safety of our fellow citizens."

Sullenberger, whose heroics were depicted by Tom Hanks in the 2016 movie "Sully," hopes to be a resource for people seeking to manage crisis, which millions of Americans are experiencing in myriad ways. He shared the lessons he has learned from navigating the harrowing situation on the Hudson and other crises in a blog post on his website Friday.

"I know that effective crisis management isn’t the result of a miracle, but instead the product of highly effective teamwork paired with preparation," he wrote. "And I think what we learned that day ripples far beyond the confines of the cockpit."

Sullenberger also shared things he wished he knew as a young pilot and tips for working with relative strangers to resolve a difficult situation, noting that he had only met one of the flight attendants and the first officer on Flight 1549 for the first time just three days before the troubled flight.

In advice that can also apply during a dark period across the country, Sullenberger shared how he maintains optimism.

"I believe it’s important to have what I call 'realistic optimism,''' he wrote. "This is a mindset I developed over many decades of experience as a pilot. Realistic optimism requires you to hold two very different thoughts in your mind at the same time: The first is having a very real awareness of and accurate appreciation for the risks a particular circumstance poses and being honest about the challenges you’re facing.

"The second is knowing with unshakable certainty that your knowledge, skills, experience and judgment will arm you and your team with the ability to work together to solve each problem until you have either solved them all, or solved as many as you can, enough to succeed and survive."