Doreen Welsh, ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ flight attendant, speaks at Dillon Lecture Series

By Tabitha Barr
Opinion Page Editor

Flying is a common source of transportation for people all around the world. Some people love it, others fear it, but it’s a necessity nonetheless.

For Doreen Welsh, flying was normalcy because it was her job for 38 years. She spoke Tuesday at the Sports Arena during the Dillon Lecture Series. But on Jan. 15, 2009, her life changed in 90 seconds. She was on the crash of flight 1549 but it was later renamed the Miracle of the Hudson. According to Cliff Moore, they were “hailed as heroes,” and will forever be known as that.

Welsh was on her final day of a four-day flight journey and was ready to go home to her son. The flight was taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina.
She did her normal routine with the other stewardesses and flight attendants, and she headed to her set position in the back of the plane and buckled up.
Minutes after takeoff, the plane made a jerking motion and Welsh caught a whiff of a “burning smell” that was not normal. She, at first, thought it was something technical and thought that they would just go back to the airport to fix it.
After checking around for signs of danger, she noticed that it was eerily quiet.
“It was total silence,” she said.
Welsh realized the engines weren’t running.
After gesturing to the flight attendants up front, she decided that the pilots didn’t have time to announce what was happening. So she sat back down and buckled up. Seconds after, she heard three words that came from the cockpit that she had been training for in her 38 years. She never thought she would actually here it.
“Brace for impact.”
After a pause of silence, she said, “I remember the terror rippling through my body.”
In the seconds that she had to process it, her thoughts exploded.
“I was in denial,” Welsh said. “This happens to other people, this does not happen to me.”
She then thought through her whole life of the good times. She saw her family, her son, and everything that made her life good.
In those moments, adrenaline kicks in and the brain is put on survival mode. Welsh’s went from zero to 100 in a split second. Truly, that is what kept her going through the whole crash.
She looked in front of her at the passengers and they were praying, phoning loved ones, and holding hands with the people around them, whether they knew their neighbor or not. She remembers thinking, “Everyone had a set of eyes to look to, but I was back there alone.”
Ninety seconds of bracing, and then impact happened. The back of the plane was the first to crash, which is where Welsh was stationed. Because her adrenaline was so high, Welsh didn’t realize that a piece of metal actually came through the bottom of the plane and sliced into her leg on impact.
At this point, water was seeping into the aircraft and was accumulating fast. She kept trying to close the seal of the door, but she didn’t realize that a huge hole behind her station had been torn open. Knowing that no one could evacuate through that door because of the water, she yells for passengers to go forwards because backwards is a complete no-go.
By this time, the water has increased up to her chest and three passengers were frozen with fear and aren’t responding to her commands to move. She could have easily put her life first and gone past them for her own safety, but she couldn’t do that. At that point, she stood at a certain point and accepted that that was where she was going to die. But she had this voice in her head that said, “One more time, go for it.”
So the next thing she knew, she was closer to the exit and the passengers. Welsh managed to make sure that everyone in her group was out of the plane before she left and went to one of the rafts.
When she went to grab her life vest, this is when she saw her torn up leg for the first time. It was a shock. Especially when she was the person with the worst injuries. She was the only one from the plane that had to have surgery.
Welsh had two heroes that night, one being a ferry boat passenger that helped her from the raft and keeping her warm and calm. The second was an New York police officer who stayed with her until her son showed up for her.
After two courageous people helped her on her way, Welsh was taken to the hospital for surgery. The first face she saw was her son and he greeted her with an “I love you but you are done flying.”
From this whole experience, Welsh has gained a new perspective on life. She’s made relationships with the people on that plane that would have never been if this didn’t happen.
Yes, this was a very difficult experience to go through, but it taught Welsh a lot about herself and life. There are many things she wants people to take away from her emotional story but there are two that she pointed out. The first is to “tell the people you love that you love them because you just don’t know what’s around the corner.” And the second is life is just about the people you love and making memories that make life better.
The reason this event is so incredible is because there were no fatalities. It could have been known as the crash of Flight 1549 but because the plane staff did their jobs and everyone helped others out, it has gone down in history as the Miracle of the Hudson. Welsh is known to many about her experience, but to those passengers, she is know at savior of that day.

Flying is a common source of transportation for people all around the world. Some people love it, others fear it, but it’s a necessity nonetheless.

For Doreen Welsh, flying was normalcy because it was her job for 38 years. She spoke Tuesday at the Sports Arena during the Dillon Lecture Series. But on Jan. 15, 2009, her life changed in 90 seconds. She was on the crash of flight 1549 but it was later renamed the Miracle of the Hudson. According to Cliff Moore, they were “hailed as heroes,” and will forever be known as that.

Welsh was on her final day of a four-day flight journey and was ready to go home to her son. The flight was taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina.
She did her normal routine with the other stewardesses and flight attendants, and she headed to her set position in the back of the plane and buckled up.
Minutes after takeoff, the plane made a jerking motion and Welsh caught a whiff of a “burning smell” that was not normal. She, at first, thought it was something technical and thought that they would just go back to the airport to fix it.
After checking around for signs of danger, she noticed that it was eerily quiet.
“It was total silence,” she said.
Welsh realized the engines weren’t running.
After gesturing to the flight attendants up front, she decided that the pilots didn’t have time to announce what was happening. So she sat back down and buckled up. Seconds after, she heard three words that came from the cockpit that she had been training for in her 38 years. She never thought she would actually here it.
“Brace for impact.”
After a pause of silence, she said, “I remember the terror rippling through my body.”
In the seconds that she had to process it, her thoughts exploded.
“I was in denial,” Welsh said. “This happens to other people, this does not happen to me.”
She then thought through her whole life of the good times. She saw her family, her son, and everything that made her life good.
In those moments, adrenaline kicks in and the brain is put on survival mode. Welsh’s went from zero to 100 in a split second. Truly, that is what kept her going through the whole crash.
She looked in front of her at the passengers and they were praying, phoning loved ones, and holding hands with the people around them, whether they knew their neighbor or not. She remembers thinking, “Everyone had a set of eyes to look to, but I was back there alone.”
Ninety seconds of bracing, and then impact happened. The back of the plane was the first to crash, which is where Welsh was stationed. Because her adrenaline was so high, Welsh didn’t realize that a piece of metal actually came through the bottom of the plane and sliced into her leg on impact.
At this point, water was seeping into the aircraft and was accumulating fast. She kept trying to close the seal of the door, but she didn’t realize that a huge hole behind her station had been torn open. Knowing that no one could evacuate through that door because of the water, she yells for passengers to go forwards because backwards is a complete no-go.
By this time, the water has increased up to her chest and three passengers were frozen with fear and aren’t responding to her commands to move. She could have easily put her life first and gone past them for her own safety, but she couldn’t do that. At that point, she stood at a certain point and accepted that that was where she was going to die. But she had this voice in her head that said, “One more time, go for it.”
So the next thing she knew, she was closer to the exit and the passengers. Welsh managed to make sure that everyone in her group was out of the plane before she left and went to one of the rafts.
When she went to grab her life vest, this is when she saw her torn up leg for the first time. It was a shock. Especially when she was the person with the worst injuries. She was the only one from the plane that had to have surgery.
Welsh had two heroes that night, one being a ferry boat passenger that helped her from the raft and keeping her warm and calm. The second was an New York police officer who stayed with her until her son showed up for her.
After two courageous people helped her on her way, Welsh was taken to the hospital for surgery. The first face she saw was her son and he greeted her with an “I love you but you are done flying.”
From this whole experience, Welsh has gained a new perspective on life. She’s made relationships with the people on that plane that would have never been if this didn’t happen.
Yes, this was a very difficult experience to go through, but it taught Welsh a lot about herself and life. There are many things she wants people to take away from her emotional story but there are two that she pointed out. The first is to “tell the people you love that you love them because you just don’t know what’s around the corner.” And the second is life is just about the people you love and making memories that make life better.
The reason this event is so incredible is because there were no fatalities. It could have been known as the crash of Flight 1549 but because the plane staff did their jobs and everyone helped others out, it has gone down in history as the Miracle of the Hudson. Welsh is known to many about her experience, but to those passengers, she is know at savior of that day.

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