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A year after landing on Hudson, passengers haunted

In this Jan. 15, 2009, file photo, passengers wait to be rescued on the wings of a US Airways Airbus 320 jetliner that safely ditched in the frigid waters of the Hudson River in New York.

Associated Press (2009)

In this Jan. 15, 2009, file photo, passengers wait to be rescued on the wings of a US Airways Airbus 320 jetliner that safely ditched in the frigid waters of the Hudson River in New York.

NEW YORK — Months after the crash, Doreen Welsh had a panic attack when she inhaled a little water in the shower. Anastasia Sosa no longer finds swimming fun — it feels too much like survival training.

A year after the 155 people aboard the crippled US Airways Flight 1549 survived a splash-landing on the frigid Hudson River, some are suffering the psychological aftereffects of their terrifying descent and harrowing evacuation.

While many have spoken of a newfound appreciation for life and a focus on family, some also are struggling to regain their balance emotionally.

"It was a real breaking point for me," said Sosa, who believed her husband and two young children would die with her.

In what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger deftly put his Airbus A320 down in the river on Jan. 15, 2009, after a collision with a flock of birds disabled the aircraft's engines.

Today, the anniversary, Sullenberger and some of the survivors will take a boat out to the place where they were pulled soaked and freezing from the water, and at the moment of impact they will raise their glasses in a toast.

Returning to the river won't be easy for Welsh. One of three flight attendants on Flight 1549, she remembers being seconds away from drowning as water gushed into the rear of the aircraft, reaching all the way to her chin.

Even now, she is afraid of water. One day, six or seven months after the crash, she inhaled some water in the shower and had a full-scale panic attack, experiencing the evacuation again. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Once an avid swimmer, the 41-year-old Sosa has stopped her near-daily trips to the pool. The East Hampton woman said swimming reminds her of carrying her baby son to safety, of looking back and seeing her husband chest-deep in the flooded cabin, hoisting their 4-year-old daughter above the rising water, of thinking they wouldn't make it out.

Many survivors, including Mark Hood, speak mostly about the positive outlook they gained from their brush with death. In the past year, the Charlotte, N.C., salesman has spoken to more than 50 church and civic groups about the experience.

"There is really, really nothing in life to fear," he said. "I feel like every day is a bonus no matter how difficult the problems that are thrown at you or at me."

Many of the survivors of Flight 1549 have gone back to their jobs. Some participate in an e-mail group, sharing their progress and their thoughts. Two survivors, Laura Zych and Ben Bostic, have fallen in love.

The group surprised some observers with what they have chosen not to do: No one on board the plane has sued the airline.

A year after landing on Hudson, passengers haunted 01/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:18pm]

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