Applauding the 'Hudson miracle' airplane on which lives changed

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite clipped wings, scratched paint and a jagged rip in its underbelly, the Airbus 320 that became world-famous as the "Miracle on the Hudson" was reunited Saturday with its last occupants.

It not only passed inspection, but was remembered fondly -- well, as fondly as the container for a near-death experience can be -- by those who were aboard on Jan. 15, 2009, as Charlotte-bound Flight 1549 rose into a flock of geese and turned from one of the most sophisticated flying machines on the planet into an 80-ton glider.

"When there's an impact like this, it crystalizes everything," said Pam Seagle, who was in seat 12A and attended Saturday night's reception at Carolinas Aviation Museum to welcome the plane, which will officially go on display on the third anniversary of the splashdown.

"When it was going down, I didn't think about work, and I love my job," said Seagle, a Bank of America executive. "I thought about my family, my family, my family."

Good things can come from bad things, and in Seagle's case, it meant focusing her life more on the things she cares most about, meaning her parents, her husband of 21 years and their two children.

"I say 'I love you' to people I never said that to before," she said. And after the crash, she heard from friends she hadn't talked to in decades, and they shared recollections of what they meant to each other.

"It was almost like going to your own funeral -- but not having to."

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