Thrilled to be Alive: "Thank You, and Thank God"

The young mother of the littlest survivor tells of his dramatic rescue

By BRIAN THOMPSON, JOHN P. WISE, and MICHAEL CLANCY
|  Monday, Jan 26, 2009  |  Updated 3:17 PM CDT
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Meet the Man Who Saved the Baby on Flight 1549

Today

"Thank you and thank God," said Tess Sosa, the mother of little Damien, the nine-month-old boy who was littlest survivor of the Miracle on the Hudson, said in an interview on the "Today" show.

Photos and Videos

Meet the Man Who Saved the Baby on Flight 1549

A Charlotte man helped convince a woman to take action to save herself and her young son after the US Airways flight went down Thursday.

Meet the Man Who Saved the Baby on Flight 1549

A Charlotte man helped convince a woman to take action to save herself and her young son after the US Airways flight went down Thursday.
More Photos and Videos

"Thank you and thank God," Tess Sosa, the young mother of Damien, the nine-month-old littlest survivor of the Miracle on the Hudson, said in an interview on the "Today" show.

The joyous mother called the pilot "brilliant" and expressed gratitude to the "very calm, collected gentleman" who sat next to her and helped her get her loved ones to safety after the engine cut out on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte and it made a remarkable emergency landing on the icy Hudson River. 

"It's good to be alive today," Damien's father, Martin Sosa, told "Today." "It's hard to believe we just survived that."

Because of a seating glitch, Tess sat next to a stranger with little Damien, while Martin sat with their three-year-old girl, Sophia.

The stranger next to Tess, who had clocked his fair share of frequent flier miles, looked up from his reading to first alert the young mother that something not right.  What they couldn't have known is that it was a one-in-a-million problem: Canada geese had taken out both engines of the Airbus A320, which was scheduled to leave LaGuardia at 3:04 p.m. 

"He said 'Ooh problem with the engine," Tess said.  "I said 'Oh are we going to be okay?' And  he said 'Yes.' I said 'Are you sure?' And he said 'Yes'...  I turned and said to 'Sophia, 'We’re going to be OK.  We’re going to be OK.'"

In another row, the passenger sitting next to Martin Sosa offered to help.

"I held Sophia and we did the best we could to brace ourselves up," Martin Sosa said." ''And the gentleman beside me said, 'Would you like me to brace your son?' ... And I said okay, because he mentioned that he had been on scary flights before."

"And he did, he braced my son. There was an impact. My son was crying. That was such a good sign to me."

One of the passengers who who helped Tess and little Damien, David Sanderson described the scene as "controlled chaos.”

"I heard an explosion, and I saw flames coming from the left wing and I thought, 'This isn't good,'" Sanderson told WNBC. "People started running up the aisle. People were getting shoved out of the way."

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After the impact, Damien's dad, Martin said he was happy his family was seemingly unscathed.

"Waters flooding into the cabin, and we've survived the impact," Martin Sosa recalled. "...A lot of people were valiant."

That's when Sanderson and others sprang into action, trying to convince a mother to part with her child, even if for just a moment.

”My self and another gentlemen were like “Get the baby out, get the baby, throw the baby , do something,”  said the Charlotte businessman who almost booked a different flight home. “And she did.  And finally we both picked her up and just threw her on the lifeboat.”

"She was terrified," Sanderson told WNBC from the safety of his warm hospital bed Thursday night. "People on the lifeboat kept saying, 'Throw us the baby; throw us the baby,' and she wouldn't do it."

Sanderson, a father of four children of his own, said the woman eventually summoned the courage to part her beloved baby.

"She (threw the boy to safety), and finally, we picked her up and threw her on the lifeboat," he said.

Sanderson said he didn't really think about helping; he just reacted.

"I feel I am the last person to leave the plane," he said. "That's what I was taught. It's the right thing to do."

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