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LIers relive ‘Miracle on Hudson’ with new film ‘Sully’

Passengers wait on the wings of a US

Passengers wait on the wings of a US Airways jetliner that safely landed in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, after a flock of birds knocked out both its engines. "The Miracle on the Hudson" is depicted in the film "Sully." Credit: AP / Steven Day

Memories of friends and family raced through Alex Magness’ mind the day he survived an emergency plane landing on the Hudson River in 2009. Last week, he relived that life-changing moment as it played out on the big screen.

The Amazon sales director, a Rockville Centre resident, was among the 155 passengers on Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009. The flight’s landing later became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” for Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s decision to land the plane in the Hudson River, a move that saved the lives of everyone on board.

The heroic landing and its aftermath are now playing on the big screen with the release of “Sully” earlier this month.

Magness, 46, saw the movie at a screening organized for survivors, first responders and crew members in Manhattan on Sept. 8.

“I was wondering how they were going to turn a five-minute event into a 2-hour story,” Magness said. “It portrays the heroism of a lot of people — the pilot, co-pilot, flight attendants.”

The experience of watching it brought him back to that day seven years ago, he said.

Magness was working at Hewlett-Packard at the time and was headed to Charlotte,North Carolina for a business dinner. The flight had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport at about 3:30 p.m. when it struck a flock of geese and lost power in both engines.

The film was difficult to watch since it so accurately captured the emotional experience of the landing, Magness said.

“It was harder for me than I expected,” Magness said. “I can’t say I enjoyed the film, but I respected the film.”

The plot follows veteran pilot Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks, during the Hudson landing and the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation afterward, based on his memoir of the incident, “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.”

The film also brought back memories for Patrick Harten, 42, of Long Beach, who saw it twice. Harten was the air traffic controller who communicated with Sullenberger during the incident and tried to find an airport for the plane to land. In the film, Harten’s role is played by actor Patch Darragh.

“It was a little rough to watch,” Harten said.

The film captures the most stressful day of his life, but also a day that changed him, he said.

“Meeting the passengers afterwards, it really hits home what we do — these people’s lives are in our hands,” Harten said.

Magness said living through the “Miracle on the Hudson” has also changed his outlook on life. Even seven years later, he tries harder to be present with his family, maintain relationships with his friends and pursue hobbies he had previously pushed to the side, like playing guitar.

“There’s not really too many days that go by that the experience doesn’t pop into my mind or isn’t part of how I live my life today,” he said. “Now that I have the benefit of seven years, you make fundamental changes in your life because you’ve been given a reset.”


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