On Wednesday, most of America and seemingly every wonk on Twitter fondly recalled the time US Airways pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III deftly and safely landed his stricken passenger jet on the Hudson River. Wednesday marked the five-year anniversary of the event, one of the first times social media and the internet far outpaced cable television and honest to goodness word of mouth in documented Sullenberger’s fantastic, life-saving maneuver.
Dallas Mavericks swingman Vince Carter was one of those offering first hand, word of mouth descriptions of the event, because it turns out that he saw both the landing and the rescue as it happened while watching in his New York apartment. Carter, then a member of the New Jersey Nets, was looking out at his window view of the Hudson River when Sullenberger manufactured his legendary moment.
“I was sitting in my bedroom looking out the window, and all of a sudden, like not a minute later a freakin’ plane lands in the Hudson,” Carter said before his current team the Mavericks took on the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.
“I was sitting in my bed and it was literally right outside my window,” Carter said. “So when the plane lands, I see the current turning the plane, I see the door open and the first two people jump out, and it was cold that day, and they start swimming, swimming, then they turn around because it’s a little too cold and the next thing you know everybody is on the wing.”
Following the landing, Carter hopped down to street level to witness the rescue with his astonished neighbors. Five years later, as his talk with Helin shows, he’s still pretty gobsmacked about the whole thing:
“When it hit the water it was a smooth landing, like he was landing on a runway…” Carter said while using his hands to show how it came in relatively parallel to the Hudson, like a seaplane landing. “He put it right down, smooth. I mean of course that big ol’ plane hitting the water was loud, there was a ‘boom’ but the plane was intact. It was amazing.”
It was. The man landing a massive aircraft in choppy, cold water and saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew. And one can’t imagine the thoughts going through Carter’s head at the time, thinking he was about to witness something horrific, only to watch as the work of Captain Sullenberger rightfully became part of modern American lore.
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