Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

US Airways Flight 1549

January 18, 2009 | 20 Comments

Post to the Host:
I am a retired flight attendant — 41 years with Delta Airlines. Tonight your tribute to the entire crew of the USAirways flight who landed in the Hudson River was wonderful. Thank you for recognizing the ENTIRE crew!! The captain was, of course, a hero, but he was not alone — his first officer had to have been working as hard as he was — You are the first person I have heard mention his name (much less, write a song about it!)

As a flight attendant, I do appreciate the tribute to those ladies, but the real heroism was in the cockpit!

Thanks to the five crew members, and to you for your tribute.

Sarah N.
Williamson, GA


I wrote the song (lyrics | listen | download mp3) on the plane from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Louisville last Friday because I was taken with the name of the pilot, Chessley B. Sullenberger III, which struck me as a cartoonish name you'd attach to a guy in a top hat and spats. The Third at the end of his name opens the door to lots of rhymes — bird, occurred, onward, and so forth — and so I dashed off the song, which also celebrates his great presence of mind in a pinch, not that it was Heroic but that it was sort of Typical and what pilots are trained for. Right? So I rehearsed the song Friday with the band and noticed that I'd singled out one guy and there were others involved and the first officer Jeffrey Skiles also had a rhymeable name and so did the flight attendants, Donna Dent, Sheila Dail, and Doreen Welsh. So there you are. I was unprepared, though, for the huge reaction of the audience in the Palace Theater in Louisville. They just LOVED that song from the first line. Not a great song but it touched a deep chord, and there's the secret of songwriting, ma'am. Just be in the right place at the right time and any fool can write a song. But it takes years of training and mental discipline to be able to set a powerless Airbus down on the Hudson. And then he was the last to leave the plane. He walked through hip-deep water all the way to the tail to make sure everybody was out. To us passengers, that seems so utterly classy. Wow. I'm flying all week this week, Richmond, Vero Beach, D.C., Ohio, Seattle, Duluth, and I look at you airline people a little differently now.


i am a flight attendant for us airways, and i just wanted to take the time to thank you for your musical tribute to the gallant crew of us airways 1549. it is indeed an honor to have someone like you recognize the entire crew of 5. so many times the flight attendants are left out, and you included us in your tribute. again, thank you for doing such a great job at recognizing all of us aviation safety professionals.

aaron bocknek, baltimore,md

Garrison, "classy," that's just the word. Thanks for tributing all the crew. I noticed form the moment Wolf Blitzer starting blitzing this news that not a single news source I heard even mentioned "other crew." All Things Considered did---and, of course, you. As sister-in-law to a retired US Air pilot named, no kidding, Chuck, I appreciate your attention to the startling dedication of a well-trained crew. We love our pilot. And we know that Sully, though "only doing his job," is, yet, the classiest of the classy.

I am a retired Flight Attendant and I tip my hat to the wonderful crew of US 1549...and to you!

Thank you so much for your tribute to the WHOLE crew.



I am a former USAir employee, and I was likewise moved by your wonderful tribute to the entire crew of flight 1549.

Even more, it was preceded by My Old Kentucky Home. Somehow you got the audience to sing the choruses, with (it seemed) almost no prompting from you. Together, those two songs made an experience for which I have no words, but I felt somehow transformed.

Thank you again.

Mr. Keillor:
I'm sorry you will not recognize your genious. What an amazing song! You can be simple and kindly in your response to this amazing act of heroism, so soon. The world needs to learn this way, this blessing. Thank you.
And what a lovely and funny and sweet tribute to this man and the entire flight crew, who probably did what they believed the job demanded of them (heroism, or smarts???).

I can only echo all the wonderful comments made before me. To recognize EVERYONE on that plane was the best part of that song. I would only hope that we will hear it again somewhere. It shouldn't pass into the great unknown until we make it part of the folk history of music here in the US. Would love to have a copy to play at our folk jams.

The song was a lovely and clever tribute. I was surprised and delighted to hear it when I tuned in Saturday night. You may or may not know that it was mentioned on our local NBC Ch. 4 11PM broadcast Saturday night, as they were reporting on the recovery efforts of the aircraft from the river.

This complete rescue truly lifted spirits, especially in my hometown of New York City, where we (especially our emergency responders) needed and got a big win.

Thank you for your prompt recognition.

Wish I could download this to listen to when I'm feeling discouraged -- heard it on the show and have played it several times. Echo all the comments above. Thanks for writing and performing this song.
Caroline Stevens

In his Farewell Address Mr. Bush had opportunity to mention the people and the occasion of the Hudson River Event. He chose not to.

Thanks once again, Mr. Keillor, for listening and reporting the heartbeat of our times.

A fantastic song -- one that deserves not only to be heard by future generations, but to be sung by them as well.

Once again you have shown what a gift you have with words! Thank you so much for the wonderful tribute to the whole crew of flight 1549.

I was quite moved by this song and I couldn't wait to hear it again the next day. Since then, I have listened several times on the web and have told several friends and family members where to find it on the internet.

Garrison, you are sooooo talented and filled with feeling. It was most appropriate that you made the effort to write this in time for Saturday's show so soon after the accident happened. A lot of us needed to hear this at a time when there is so much uncertainty in the air.

Thank you!

Thank you for focusing on this "miracle", naming the folks who were doing their jobs, reminding us all of who we want to be during this week of fresh hope. I grew up in Lake Wobegon (well. actually North Lake Wobegon, on the range) , and love it that you can put that experience into words. Thank you so much.

Dear Mr. Keillor:

I never though I would hear the first performance of what will be a Great American Folk Song! You must record this on your next CD. This is a modern "Casey Jones" with a happy ending! What a wonderful song to lift our spirits in these troubled times.

Thank you!

That was a nice tribute, Garrison. Isn't it true that so many miracles are performed by people "just doing their jobs"?

Dear Prairie Home Companion.

It was with pure astonishment and then delight that I listened to your rendering about the US Air crew and their accomplishment. Thank you for your generosity and kindness in recognizing the entire flight crew, and the maker of the aircraft (who apparently had the foresight to help make the plane remain afloat by sealing off the openings in the downed aircraft).
It is about time that we all enjoyed some good news for a change, and your song was just perfect.

Thanks again. Ian

Garrison, I can add nothing to the comments before mine except this. Your song touched me so, I balled like a three year old. Very moving indeed. For that was truly "credit given where credit deserved." Thank you, Dan.

I'm commenting on GK's response. After hearing the accolades of a retired flight attendant who felt so affirmed by GK's thoughtfulness in naming the crew, Garrison, in a retiring voice, proclaimed that the attraction to naming the crew was the rhyme-ability of the names. Responses like GK's are so dry, I think they originate in the Sahara. I also recognize his authenticity and sincerity.

I agree with all the comments. We live in a world where we focus too much on the awful things, this being one of them but happily with a good ending, and we need to applaud the heroism and celebrate the good things in life.
Sue Keehnen

Garrison, Thank You to a simple but beautiful song. You said anyone could write a song, maybe but not with all the meaning you gave that great song. It should be playing on all the airwaves for the whole country to hear. Hero's are not born but made, and that whole crew worked together like a well oiled machine, showing the world how we Americans stick together. I tell you what I will pay more attention and give them more respect the next time I fly, and also pay more attention to the emergency instructions they give. Also you have to give some kudo's to the passengers for not freaking out. Like the guy next to the mother who was holding her 9 month old baby and he took the baby when they were crashing. Or those helping the others out onto the wing. Makes one proud to be American!

Previous Post:
« The Religious Life

Next Post:
Maybe Tap Dance »

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy