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Sunday, September 4, 2016


January 15, 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River

Currently, in theatres world wide, Tom Hank's new movie, “Sully, is a dramatic retelling of the "Miracle on the Hudson,” the story of how a brave pilot crash landed his disabled jetliner in the Hudson River.

Also, a related book on the same crash is making the rounds telling of the lasting effects of that near-death experience on the passengers.

Authors Dorothy Firman and Kevin Quirk in “Brace For Impact: Miracle on the Hudson” asked survivors of Flight 1549 about life after near death.

On January 15, 2009, the world was mesmerized by "the miracle on the Hudson.” Against all odds, Captain Chesley B. "Sully” Sullenberger safely landed a plane plunging toward disaster on the river. More amazingly, all 150 passengers survived—and, for the most part, with nothing worse (physically) than a few bruises and soggy clothes. At the time, many of us tried to imagine how we would have those three chilling words—"Brace for impact”—and then, amazingly, been spared from certain death?

A year later, it's time for a different, perhaps more meaningful story. What happened to these extremely fortunate passengers when they went home? What was it like to return to their families, their jobs, their neighborhoods—everything familiar, but somehow changed? How did they celebrate coming back from the brink of near-death trauma? How did their loved ones respond to the living proof of a miracle? What has been the real impact they braced for, not of the disaster and death they expected, but of the gift of a "new” life?

Intrigued by these and other questions, authors Dorothy Firman and Kevin Quirk set out to find answers—by asking the survivors themselves. The result is an inspiring collection of first-person accounts: Brace For Impact: "Miracle on the Hudson” Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life (HCI Books). Along with the personal stories of 25 men and women profoundly affected by Flight 1549—survivors and first-responders—this volume offers lessons about faith, gratitude, wisdom, healing, love, and transformation for everyone in today's world of upheaval and challenges.

Readers will hear from parents who believed they would never see their teenagers, toddlers, or a child on the way; an ex-Marine officer, a swimming pool serviceman, a nurse, a TV executive, and a boat pilot; survivors who have publicly spoken about their experiences at churches, schools, businesses, and organizations as large as the American Red Cross, as well as those who have remained private.

Through their heartfelt, stirring words, their courageous admissions of fear, their humor and their hope, the contributors reinforce the importance of family, knowing what really matters, and discovering our purpose. Throughout and above all, Brace For Impact stands as a testament to how something good—even something wonderful—can emerge out of crisis and tragedy. And that's a timely, welcome lesson to inspire and comfort everyone.


Dorothy Firman is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Chicken Soup for the Mother and Daughter Soul, among numerous books. She has worked in the field of psychology and counseling for over thirty years. Kevin Quirk is a former journalist with The Charlotte Observer, among other newspapers, and a prolific ghostwriter and editor.

For more information, please visit

Brace For Impact: "Miracle on the Hudson” Survivors Share
Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life


Barry Leonard ("The Heart of Gratitude” - Chapter 3): suffered a fractured sternum during the crash and shock from desperately trying to swim to safety - resulting in a 3-day hospital stay. Barry has faced new medical challenges in his life since the crash. In July, Barry organized a thank-you luncheon for the 70 New Jersey first responders and medical staff that saved him, symbolic of a new commitment to extend gratitude in ever widening circles of life. As a successful businessman at the top of his game, Barry speaks to how the crash helped him see what really matters for himself and for others. Barry lives in Charlotte but works in NYC as CEO of home fashion firms.

Dave Sanderson ("Speaking from the Heart” – Chapter 22): started out giving church talks about the possibilities of miracles and has become a high-profile national inspirational speaker with Keppler Speakers Bureau. Dave tells of how he often finds himself in tears due to his talks and the memories of the crash and rescue, the deeper spiritual meaning, and the poignant moments with those he speaks to with passion, insight, and direct experience as to why people everywhere have been so touched by this story.

Vicki Barnhardt ("Knowing When to Go Back” – Chapter 18): returned to the crash rescue scene on the Hudson River in June as part of her personal healing and had a profound experience, riding a NY Waterway ferry and finding the dinner cruise ship where she was taken by Coast Guard rescue boat to warm up after falling off the wing of the plane. Trauma from the crash includes memory of her father dying of a heart attack in an airplane. As leader of Facebook group for Flight 1549 Survivors, Vicki speaks of how the passengers have formed community to support one another's healing. Younger than passenger prototype and mother of 2 young children, she also has taken a new view on keeping to work deadlines: "It just doesn't matter as much.” Vicki conducts corporate trainings/workshops, and lives in the Charlotte, NC area.

Beth McHugh: ("Hugging Like You Mean It” – Chapter 21): In profound gratitude for the gift of life, she vowed to hug everyone she met – and still does, even airport security women patting her down in extra screening. Beth speaks not only of the spirit behind these hugs but of a fresh perspective she carries into retirement now that she is living with a second chance. At 65, she decided to retire earlier than planned this year due to this experience so she can live a life and not a job. Beth is retiring from medical sales job in December '09, and lives in Charlotte.

Dr. Ray Basri: ("Healing & Healed” – Chapter 17): Triage doctor at crash rescue, he had a chance encounter there with passengers Diane Higgins and Lucille Palmer, who live near him. Being at a crash site where everyone went home alive helped him heal from triage work at 9/11 and follow-up support services for firefighters with PTSD and other injuries. He has also been a firefighter. Ray speaks for rescue workers and the city of New York on the welcome contrast between 9/11 and the miracle on the Hudson. Ray lives in Middletown, NY and frequents NYC.

Don Norton: ("Respecting Your Fears” – Chapter 14): After managing a few post-crash flights he developed a morbid fear of flying. He has immersed himself in this fear and became a student of plane crashes and plane safety. Don speaks openly and emotionally about how this fear consumed him and how he looks at it today, and how his vulnerability has enabled him to be a better dad to his 3-year-old son and more compassionate to others around him. Don lives in Charlotte, NC.

Bill Elkin: ("Awakening to Purpose” – Chapter 2): Swept up in gratitude and emotional upheaval, he searches for a new sense of his life's purpose. As one answer, he began delivering sermons at churches with this theme: Imagine You Had One Minute to Live. Bill speaks eloquently and vividly about a new appreciation for everything in life and truly living in the now. This new perspective has alleviated major work stress, a likely cause of a condition of major hair loss. Bill is Chief Financial Officer for the international firm, Interflex Group, and lives in Mooresville, NC (between Charlotte & Winston-Salem).

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