Captain Sullenberger is of course the humble hero who executed the first ever successful airplane ditch (aka water landing) on the Hudson River a week and a half ago. Successful, meaning - not a soul was critically injured and the fuselage remained intact. Sullenberger is from my home town of Danville, CA. And today under dark threatening skies, on the lawn of the Danville Library, there was a huge celebration welcoming him home.
I spent most of the 45 minutes on my tiptoes trying to view past the gluteus maximum of the Press. Those lucky ducks with press passes were generously given chairs.......that they then used to stand upon. My family and I arrived on what we thought was the early side ~12:30 (for the 1pm ceremony) so I thought I had a good vantage being basically in the front row behind the press. Until they got on those darned chairs! But it was a nice feeling to be there all the same.
Danville is a very close-knit community and one could feel it in the air. People chatted with each other as we stood packed together waiting. My high school's marching band preceded the speakers: mayor, fire chief, chief of police and local congressman. It felt "small town" even though I had evidence right in front of me that it was being recorded for the national news.
There were about 3000 people gathered; waving flags and taking pictures and holding signs. As we surveyed the crowds, my dad made a comment that I'm certain is accurate: "If I were Sullenberger I would absolutely hate all this attention for just doing my job." And the captain's concise 30 second address very much held that sentiment. He thanked his crew and reminded all of us that they were "just doing what they'd trained to do." A hero all the more in my mind, for being so humble.
As the days slip by and the weeks turn to months, this hullabaloo will fade away and cars will once again be able to drive through the Sullenberger's neighborhood without encountering a news van. Danville will fall off the map again and will resume being the small, safe, oak tree sprinkled town in San Francisco's East Bay. But Danvillians will all be a little bit more proud when the Hudson plane landing pops up in conversation and we can mention "oh that captain's from Danville!"
And I'll be glad that I went to see the big hero from our little town...