Dave Sanderson is an inspirational survivor and speaker. His thoughts on leadership have made him an internationally sought-out speaker. When US Airways Flight 1549, or “The Miracle on the Hudson,” ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, Dave Sanderson knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
He was the last passenger off the back of the plane on that fateful day, he was largely responsible for the well-being and safety of others, risking his own life in frigid water to help other passengers off the plane.
Despite the hazards to himself, Sanderson thought only of helping others and emerged from the wreckage with a mission: to encourage others to do the right thing. He also is the author of Moments Matter: How One Defining Moment Can Create a Lifetime of Purpose. Dave has been featured on NBC, ABC, PBS, and many other media outlets.
Take us back to that day when your plane crashed, what was that day like?
Dave has never been afraid of flying in a plane. In fact, Dave is a frequent flyer who has traveled in different airlines in different parts of the world. Dave wasn’t supposed to be on that flight, he was scheduled for another flight. Within a minute after the plane took off, Dave heard an explosion. He looked out the window when he heard the explosion which came out of the engines of the aircraft. They were flying over the George Washington Bridge, only about 400 feet above it. They were roughly a 1000 feet above sea level. As the plane started to plummet towards the Hudson River, at that moment Dave felt as if he would not live to see another day. Dave was the last passenger to be rescued safely from the plane. He helped several passengers before exiting the plane.
What was the moment when you realized you were alive?
When Dave got out of the plane, he swam towards a ferry after which he went to a hospital. When the EMT took Dave’s blood pressure and it was unusually high, that is when he realized he was alive since he had blood pressure.
How did your life change after this traumatic incident?
Dave was back to work just a week after the incident. He took a flight the very next day to go back to his home and within a week took another flight to Michigan for business related work. Dave was going to Michigan for a corporate business trip. He was supposed to travel with Delta airlines. Dave recalls it was the toughest flight of his life. Just after recognizing himself as a hero in US Airways, no one really realized who Dave was when he got on the flight. Dave was also getting a lot of attention from media as well. The weeks following the incident were extremely hectic for Dave and he feels he should have stepped back a little and spend time with his family.
How many times have you flown since that incident?
On average, Dave flies for over a hundred times in a year. It has been nine years since that incident and Dave thinks he has flown almost a 1000 times after that incident.
How has this incident changed you as a person?
Dave feels this incident changed him in a lot of different ways. It has helped him to prioritize his time. Dave used to schedule all of his time around his business. Dave has started to spend more time with his family. He was able to change his relationship with his family after this incidence.
Do you think your life would have been different if you had missed out on that flight?
Dave truly believes he would have lived a completely different life had he not been on that flight. He thinks he would still be working for the company he was working for at the time of the crash, he wouldn’t own his own company. He thinks the biggest difference would have been in his relationship with his family. Dave started to spend a lot of time with his wife and kids after the crash. Dave thinks God put him on that plane for a reason and for a purpose.
You mention you create meaning out of things, what was the meaning you extracted out of this tragic event?
He has been asked this question in many TV interviews. Dave thinks if the event didn’t happen, he can not even count the relationships he would have lost due to his previous lifestyle and his workaholic nature. He thinks he might have even lost his marriage and as a result would not have been able to spend time with his children. Dave considers it as a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to bring about a shift in his perspective of various things. Dave got to talk to a lot of other people who were on the same plane as him and they considered it a tragedy.
Where were you in terms of your speaking career before the incident?
Dave spoke all the time in his job but he was presenting all the time. Dave was around great speakers. He always wanted to speak but he always thought he had no content. The first time he was asked to speak publicly was in a local church. That is when he picked up the art of speaking publicly. During one of his speeches, a woman approached him and said she did not believe in God, did not believe in miracles but Dave’s survival story had her believe in God and miracles again. That is when Dave realized he had already impacted someone’s life through his speaking.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice he has ever been given is to be humble in life. Even if you are good at your work, you should not get too cocky because there will always be someone who would be better than you.
How can we connect with you?
You can find more about Dave and his public speaking through the following website.