Florence officer recalls being a passenger on ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ flight

Florence officer recalls being a passenger on ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ flight

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A local police officer shared his memories about being a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing into New York's Hudson River.

It's an event that came to be known as the "Miracle on the Hudson" and it took place on Jan. 15, 2009 during a flight from New York to Charlotte.

Maj. Mike Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff's Office was on that flight and remembers the moments leading up to the emergency landing.

Nunn said he first wanted to see the new movie "Sully," based on the flight, before talking with the media. Even then, he does not want this event to define who he is.

He said the film, which stars Tom Hanks as heroic pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, truly portrays what the passengers went through as the aircraft crashed into the Hudson River. Being on board that plane, Nunn said he was left with a better appreciation of how fragile life is and a "desire on my part to make every day count."

Nunn recalled they were in the air less than three minutes before hitting the water.

"We had been climbing. (Of) course I didn't know how high we were," Nunn said. "Turns out we were 2,800 feet and about two minutes, three minutes into the flight, and all of a sudden I look at the engine to the right and I see something brown get ingested into the engine and can feel the plane rock. We cleared the George Washington Bridge by only a few hundred feet."

Nunn said he thought those moments would be the last thing he ever saw. Fortunately, to his and many others' surprise, the plane landed and just sat up on top of the water, and it felt like they were floating.

"All I knew was that the water was shooting up over the windows," he said. "You know this was the point at which I was expecting the plane to fly apart. The water started coming into the aircraft from the rear. I was seated near the front, so the water never actually got up to my row by the time we were evacuating."

Nunn said he thought he would never survive the crash, let alone being stuck in the water. He even helped pull people out of the freezing Hudson and onto his raft.

"You know the air temperature was in the very low 20s, the wind chill was five below, water temperature was 36 degrees," he said. "So every time the water would splash on the side of the raft or touch anything, it would freeze."

Nunn recalled he couldn't feel his hands or his feet, and thinks he was on the water almost 30 minutes before being rescued.

Sullenberger's name is now etched in history, as all 155 passengers - from children to seniors - were rescued. Nunn said most of them stood behind how the captain landed the plane.

"He was assigned to fly this aircraft on this day that actually needed his unique expertise," Nunn said.

That is why he calls Sullenberger his hero.

"I try not to leave the house any day without telling those that I love (I love) them, so there's never a doubt in their mind because you never know when you leave, whether you'll be coming back or not," Nunn said.

He felt he survived the miracle for a reason, and every day he seeks to find out what that reason is.

As for flying, Nunn said he was never afraid to get back on a plane. He actually took the first flight out the next morning to come back home to Florence.

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