For Capt. Sully Sullenberger, Fame Was a Burden—Until It Became a ‘Duty’

‘All the pieces had to come together’: Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger says on 10th anniversary of miraculous Hudson River landing
January 14, 2019
And finally: Lessons of Flight 1549, 10 Years Later
January 15, 2019
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On the 10 year anniversary of his miracle landing, the famed pilot reflects on what became an entirely new life.

On January 15, 2009, former Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger courageously landed a US Airways plane on Manhattan’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. He was immediately hailed a national hero: Former New York Gov. David Paterson called it “a miracle on the Hudson;” Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama thanked him for his courage, and he was honored at the 2009 Super Bowl. When he sat for his first television interview with Katie Couric talking about the “loud thumps” caused by Canadian geese hitting the plane, the pilot sounded calm, confident.

But at home, he suffered.

Although never officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Sullenberger says it was “obvious” he had it. In the weeks following the landing, his blood pressure hovered around 160/100. For months, he couldn’t sleep. Reading the newspaper was a strenuous task—words blurred together. “I couldn’t shut my brain off,” Sullenberger tells Esquire. “I was constantly re-living, second guessing, what if-ing.”

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