CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood-- it doesn’t get any bigger than that. Those Hollywood A-listers are about to bring a story to the big screen that many in Charlotte know very well-- the “miracle on the Hudson.”
But after talking to some of the local survivors, we realized most of us only know parts of the story-- until now.
It was the video we couldn’t look away from-- dozens of people, many of them from Charlotte, balancing precariously on the wings of an airplane that had just crash-landed in New York’s Hudson river.
“And that’s when Captain Sullenburger came on and said, This is your captain; brace for impact,” Denise Lockie remembers.
Beth McHugh was sitting in seat 20A.
“It was a crash to us," she said. "I have a permanent dent in my skull bone from banging my head on the seat in front of me.”
“What was the overwhelming emotion?"
"Terror, pure stark terror.”
Kristy Spears remembers it like it was yesterday.
“Every little bit of it. it’s just very crystal clear in my mind."
Now they are bracing for something else as the movie “Sully”, based on the heroic captain of flight 1549, gets ready to hit theaters.
The survivors NBC Charlotte sat down with shot some scenes for the movie but so far have only seen the trailer.
“It gives me some hope that maybe the movie will tell a bigger story about some of the things that happen behind the scenes.”
“What isn’t always made clear is that there were people in the water in danger of drowning, in severe danger of drowning, there were people in the water who were no longer able to move their arms and legs because of hypothermia and had to spend days in the hospital to recover. There were people in the back of the plane who had to stand on the seats in order to keep their heads above water before they could get out of the plane, you don’t see that on the news.”
“It really was kind of scary at the moment.”
Kristy ended up on the fuel-soaked and slippery edge of the wing; she can spot herself in the pictures and videos from that day.
“At first, it was surreal, that’s really me,” she says of seeing the photos.
By the time Beth, a grandmother of seven, made her way from the back of the plane, there was no room left on the wings and the rafts were full, too.
“I looked down and the raft was full of people and water, and I thought if I jump out there I'll land on somebody and hurt them and I just hesitated at the top, and the flight attendant put her hand on my back and said, 'Honey, you have to jump, you have to get off the plane, close your eyes and jump.'”
When Beth jumped, Denise was already on that raft-- numb. At the time, Denise had no idea she had a serious leg injury.
“A lot of us didn’t realize we had any injuries.”
She does realize, though, just how grave the situation was, thanks to a frank conversation with the pilot a few weeks after.
“I said to him how was this and he looked at me, 'what was your name' and he said it was dire and I said, 'can you explain that to me?' He said, 'Denise,' in his very Sully way of saying things, 'it was life or death leaning toward death,' and I'll never forget those words."
Denise is now on a sabbatical from work. Kristy and Beth have both since retired. Kristy is now running for a school board seat in Fort Mill.
All three women call Sully a hero, and they know just how lucky they are.
Beth says, “I use a quote sometimes; 'You ask me why I came here. I came to live out loud,' and I love that quote because it says what a lot of us feel now-- we want to make sure we live our lives.”
Beth says she and many of the other survivors send Sully regular updates about their lives and Christmas cards every year.
If you’d like to see the actual plane, it’s on display right here in Charlotte at Carolina’s Aviation Museum. You can get all the details here. Sometimes some of the survivors are even there to tell visitors about their experiences.