Ten years ago today, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed USAirways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, the first step in saving the lives of the 155 people on board. The second step was taken by a 1995 graduate of Verona High School. On Jan. 15, 2009, Vincent Lombardi was the captain of a New York Waterway ferry that became the first boat to reach the downed plane and rescue its passengers from the icy river.
As MyVeronaNJ reported in 2016 after the release of “Sully”, the Clint Eastwood movie about what came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”, Capt. Lombardi was just an hour into his shift when he watched the plane land on the river. He had 31 commuters on his boat for a trip to the Jersey side, but they all wound up in a rescue effort instead.
Lombardi picked up 56 passengers from one wing of the plane and one of its life rafts, including Doreen Welsh, a USAirways flight attendant who was injured in the landing. Lombardi gave up his captain’s jacket to warm Welsh, who had gotten soaked when Hudson water entered the plane. “I am very grateful that Vinny showed up so fast,” Welsh told us in 2016.
Lombardi will be spending Tuesday reconnecting with flight 1549’s crew and passengers at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C., which is where the Airbus involved in the “Miracle” is now displayed. The plane had just taken off from LaGuardia en route to Charlotte when it hit a flock of birds that stopped both engines.
Photos copyright Vincent Lombardi. Used by permission.