A man who grew up in Hillsboro and then survived the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing – and helped rescue other passengers – will be the guest speaker at the Hillsboro Rotary Club on May 31.
Dave Sanderson, who attended grade school and played sports in Hillsboro before moving to Virginia, will speak to Rotarians at noon on Tuesday, May 31, at the Ponderosa Banquet Center. The meeting is open to non-Rotarians. Anyone interested in attending should contact a Rotarian to come as a guest, said club president Rick Williams.
Sanderson was a tech sales manager when he boarded US Airways Flight 1549 from LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15, 2009. When the plane collided with a flock of geese on takeoff, Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger made the decision to attempt a landing in the Hudson River. Miraculously, Sullenberger pulled off the landing with no casualties as the world watched the events unfold on television.
Recounting the incident, Sanderson later wrote that when the plane touched down in the river, he immediately began looking for an exit. But then he said he heard his mother’s voice saying, “If you do the right thing, God will take care of you.”
Sanderson then stayed behind to help people exit the plane, eventually finding himself the last person on the aircraft. With the plane sinking quickly, he plunged into the 36-degree water and swam to the nearest rescue ferry. Medical personnel were concerned that his life was in danger, and he was rushed to a hospital and treated for hypothermia and an eye injury due to exposure to jet fuel.
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera attended school with Sanderson and played baseball with him, and was gratified when Sanderson contacted him recently, saying he would like to return to Hillsboro for a visit. Barrera spoke to Williams and suggested that Sanderson appear as a guest speaker, and the date was arranged.
Andrea Holt, who owns and operates Ponderosa with her husband, John, also attended school with Sanderson and has stayed in touch with him, but primarily reconnected with him when Sanderson was the guest speaker at a Red Cross Heroes event a few years ago. Since the miraculous landing, Sanderson has become a motivational speaker.
“He’s a great guy,’ said Holt, noting that Sanderson crisscrosses the country delivering motivational speeches. In addition to his Rotary appearance, Holt is working with him to set up a book signing event later that same day. Sanderson is the author of “Moments Matter – How One Defining Moment Can Create a Lifetime of Purpose.” Details of the book signing will be announced soon.
“I think that people are looking for leaders,” Sanderson says in press materials. “People are looking for insight on how to handle unexpected challenges. When something tough happens in your life, how can you get through it? They’re seeking advice from people who’ve been there.”
Sanderson said that while most people may not have the experience of surviving an emergency landing in a river, “what worked that day can work every day in your life, and that’s what people understand and draw strength from.”
Sanderson was born in Peoria, Ill., and grew up in Hillsboro and Winchester, Va. He lives with his wife, Terri, and four children in Charlotte, NC.
More on Sanderson can be found at www.davesandersonspeaks.com.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.