Grilled chicken, with a side of inspiration

I try to be an involved member of the Austin community, so I attend a lot of luncheons. Typically, they feature salad, grilled chicken and dessert with an informative presentation on a topic, issue or trend. At a recent Red Cross luncheon, the food was familiar, but the experience was anything but.

“Bravo for Bravery,” a luncheon hosted by the American Red Cross of Central Texas featured Dave Sanderson, the last passenger on U.S. Airways Flight 1549, dubbed “Miracle on the Hudson” after landing on the Hudson River in January 2009.

Mr. Sanderson shared with us his first-person account of the events that day, including how he helped ensure the other passengers were out of the plane before exiting himself and how he was the last to be rescued from the frigid waters of the Hudson River.

During that experience, the Red Cross touched his life three times. First, he was grateful to the Red Cross for the swimming skills the organization taught him as a child when he swam to the rescue boat. Second, it was a Red Cross worker who wrapped his freezing body with a blanket when he emerged from the water. Third, the Red Cross made sure he had clothes after the incident so he could travel home to his family. In so many small ways, the Red Cross made a big impact for him, helping to provide comfort and hope during a traumatic ordeal.

In addition to hearing the amazing story of his experience, I got my side dish of inspiration when he spoke about his life since. He has turned his “miracle into a mission,” by traveling throughout the country (on his own time and dime) to speak to local chapters of the American Red Cross about how the organization touched his life. He’s taken something that could have become a traumatic memory he’d rather forget and turned it into something that enriches the lives of others.

I’m grateful to Dave for sharing his candid, entertaining and moving account with us and for helping me realize that the stresses I had when I walked into that event aren’t so bad after all.