On January 14th, I was a husband, a father, a commercial airline pilot for US Airways, and yes, a volunteer with Guide Dogs for the Blind. On January 16th, people from every corner of the globe knew my name, satellite trucks were camped out on the street in front of my home, and even though I was the same person I had been a couple of days before, I had been christened the hero pilot in newspapers and TV shows around the world.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on why the events of that day unfolded the way they did. What led me to that moment? How had the way I'd lived my life allowed me to face this challenge successfully?
As I reflect, I have realized that this event was the culmination of a life dedicated to constant self-improvement, responsibility, learning and growth, both professionally and personally. In the days since January 15th, my colleagues have told me stories I had long forgotten, of their memories of the times when I went out of my way to help an elderly passenger in need of assistance, aided a youngster flying alone, or weighed in on behalf of a flight attendant when a passenger became unruly. But besides doing my best to be an excellent husband, airline professional and father, I think that the place where I may have best lived these values is in my work with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Along with my wife Lorrie, I have been volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind for seventeen years. We were the proud caretakers of a wonderful breeder dog, Twinkle, who gave birth to four litters of Guide Dog puppies over the years. With our daughters, we have worked with several of her puppies to make sure that they are properly prepared for their future training as Guide Dogs. As a father, I cannot express how proud I am of our daughters and the dedication and commitment they have shown in training these puppies. As parents, Lorrie and I are both grateful for the opportunity Guide Dogs provides to teach our daughters about the values we hold dear.
I remember one day, I was driving my daughter Kate, who was about 9, to school. Out of the blue she asked one of those questions that no parent is ever fully prepared to answer. No, it wasn't where do babies come from (she saved that one for Mom). It was, "Daddy, what does 'integrity' mean?" After thinking about it for a few minutes, I said, "Integrity means doing the right thing even when it's not convenient." Her eyes lit up, and she said that she understood that integrity meant training the puppies instead of playing with her friends, taking Twinkle for a walk in the pouring rain, and most importantly, saying goodbye to her puppies so that someone in need would have a Guide Dog by their side.
Over and over since January 15th, people have remarked that the landing of Flight 1549 was a reminder of the potential for good in the world; that the things we believe and hold dear really do still exist; that there are reasons to be hopeful and that our values are still true. This is the same feeling I have when we place a puppy with a person whose life will be improved and whose horizons will be expanded with a well-trained Guide Dog. Raising Guide Dogs has given us the chance to teach our daughters about responsibility, integrity and community service, and I am grateful to Guide Dogs for the Blind for this opportunity.
These partnerships remind me every day of the potential in each of us to affect the lives around us. Thank you for making such a profound difference in my life and the lives of so many others through your generous contribution to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Chesley B. Sullenberger III
Captain, US Airways Flight 1549
P.S. We've now invited another breeder dog, Fame, into our family and look forward to many more years of connection to this wonderful organization.