Beverly Waters took a purse full of tissues to the new Tom Hanks movie about the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” flight. As a passenger on the plane, she had no idea how she’d react.
Waters, 55, of Gastonia, was in seat 21E when USAirways Flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada geese, knocking out power to both engines and forcing Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to land the plane on the river. All 155 passengers aboard the New York-to-Charlotte flight survived.
The plane is on permanent display at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, where Waters and fellow passenger Dan Vinton, 51, of Concord, recounted their experiences to museum visitors on Saturday.
To me, he is and always will be a hero.
Beverly Waters, talking about Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
Waters gently dabbed a finger to her eyes to show the crowd of about 40 how the movie produced a tear drop or two, but didn’t require the tissues she’d packed. And she made it to the end, she said.
She and Vinton agreed the movie, as Vinton said, “pretty accurately” captures what happened that day.
Survivors of the flight have been voluntarily meeting museum visitors once a month by the nose of the plane. The plane has been at the museum since 2011.
But the Clint Eastwood-directed “Sully,” which debuted Friday, is drawing larger crowds to the museum, and two survivors will again meet visitors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17, and five on Sept. 24 for a special public event, “Museum Day LIVE.”
Over Labor Day weekend, more than 1,000 people visited the museum at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, about double the normal attendance, said Jan Black, who handles marketing, media and events at the museum.
“People are starting to make the connection that the actual plane is here,” Black said.
“This is a real-life history,” visitor Bradley Hedrick of Lexington said at the museum on Saturday.
Son, Jackson, 10, even got to ask the survivors whether it was slippery on the wing of the plane. Very slippery, they replied.
Waters and Vinton never tired of answering questions from the crowd.
What did she think had happened to the plane?
“ ‘Terrorists’ was one of my first thoughts,” Waters said.
What was he thinking as the plane descended?
“I’m not going to see my wife and kids again,” Vinton, an accountant, recalls thinking. “I’m so glad I upped my life insurance policy.”
Waters, who works in marketing for TIAA, told how the experience made her slow down and better appreciate the little things in life.
“This could have happened to anyone,” Vinton said of when he thinks about his fate that day. “It’s a different kind of Powerball victory.”
He said he thought there’d be more in the film about their rescuers, but said he realized the movie’s focus was on the man who saved their lives.
Waters said she didn’t realize until she watched the movie how much questioning Sullenberger endured about his decision not to attempt a landing at a nearby airport.
People can question all they want, she said.
“To me, he is and always will be a hero.”
Staff Writer Rick Rothacker contributed.