By Rob Finfrock
On Saturday, Sept. 12, CJP2015 attendees witnessed an extremely moving presentation by Doreen Welsh, one of three flight attendants onboard US Airways Flight 1549, known by many as “the Miracle on the Hudson.” Welsh spoke at length about her 38-year career that ended Jan. 15, 2009 in New York’s Hudson River, as well as the evacuation of the stricken A320.
Welsh said her day had started with two other trip legs and a phone call with her son about attending the AFC Championship Game later in the month. Most of all, she recalled, she just wanted to get home to Charlotte, NC; those plans changed shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
“My first memory [of the ditching] might have been seeing the masks drop from the overheads, and floating,” she recalled. “I didn’t realize… for the first few moments, I wondered, ‘am I dead? Maybe we’re all dead and this is what it feels like.’ But then the captain opened the cockpit door and yelled, “EVACUATE!” That, I had trained for.”
Although there were no fatalities, Welsh was one of the few persons onboard who was injured in the ditching. It also brought Welsh and her fellow crewmembers significant fame in the weeks following the accident… but Welsh also candidly described the significant personal toll the experience had on her, including bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“In my hospital room, alone for the first time [since the accident], I went to my jacket and took off my wings,” she recounted. “That was the only thing that I had to take home… I stood in that room, and thought about my 38-year journey as a flight attendant. I thought about that silly girl [I started out as] who only cared about her next vacation.
“Sometime during those 38 years… it wasn’t a fast process… she actually became a good flight attendant,” Welsh concluded, with tears in her eyes.