Hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and the crew of U.S. Airways flight 1549 were awarded the keys to New York City today -- a rare honor bestowed on the five American heroes who turned what could have been a tragedy into a triumph.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg presented the crew members with the keys and said they were "five real American heroes" and even handed Sully a new copy of the library book that he lost in the wreckage of the Jan. 15 crash in the Hudson River.
"Thank you for sparing our city and so many families from an awful tragedy," said Bloomberg. "[It] could have been one of our most tragic, but became one of our most triumphant."
The City Hall ceremony caps off a weekend of adulation and interviews.
On Monday, Sully made the rounds of morning television news shows.
On the CBS "Early Show," Sullenberger said he felt that there was too much attention on him, and "not enough on the team."
On ABC's "Good Morning America," some passengers thanked Sullenberger for saving their lives. Others said there was no panic because of the pilot's calming voice.
Sullenberger, who ditched his jetliner in the Hudson River when a flock of birds disabled his engines, received a standing ovation Saturday from the audience at a performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."
On Sunday, in an interview broadcast on CBS' "60 Minutes," the steadfast pilot described lying awake at night second-guessing his performance -- even though his skillful flying saved the lives of everyone on board.
He said he initially had trouble forgiving himself because he thought he could have done something different in that "critical situation."
"The first few nights were the worst," Sullenberger said. "When the `what ifs' started."
Sullenberger told "60 Minutes" that the sound of the geese hitting the plane and the smell of burning poultry entering the cabin was "shocking."
"Oh, you could hear them," he said. "Loud thumps. It felt like the airplane being pelted by heavy rain or hail. It sounded like the worst thunderstorm I'd ever heard growing up in Texas."
The interview with Sullenberger and the other four crew members marked their first extensive comments since US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the frigid water Jan. 15.
Sullenberger aid he no longer regrets his actions that day, calling his decision to land in the river "the only viable alternative" to attempting a return to LaGuardia Airport or landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. He said he knew he had to touch down with the wings level and the nose slightly up, and "at a descent rate that was survivable."