Hero on The Hudson's Texas Homecoming

US Airways hero gets rousing hometown reception

In a town that's no stranger to heroes, one stood out Saturday.

US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III returned to his hometown of Denison, Texas, to help pay tribute to military veterans on the 65th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Denison also was the hometown of the man who led the invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A crowd of flag-waving, sign-holding North Texans staked out sidewalk space early Saturday to get a good glimpse at Sullenberger in a parade down Denison's Main Street.

Gov. Rick Perry presented the 57-year-old pilot with a legislative resolution praising his safe landing of a US Airways jet on the Hudson River on Jan. 15, saving all aboard.

Throughout the town square, reminders of the reason for the day's celebration were evident. Veterans wore caps emblazoned with unit insignia of the military branches in which they served. Children held signs that said "Denison salutes Capt. Sully, a Yellow Jacket Hero." Spectators standing amid American flags craned their necks and snapped photos of Sullenberger and other dignitaries on stage.

Barbara Dotson, 27, of Mesquite, held a copy of the New York Times that had a picture of Sullenberger's plane floating in the Hudson. She came to Denison to get an autograph -- and she was successful. Sullenberger's signature was in the top-left corner.

"He's a hero because he saved all those people's lives," she said, "And he was unselfish in what he did."

For many, simply knowing Sullenberger came from Denison was a source of pride.

"It makes me proud and makes me feel good to know that somebody from such a small town can do something so great and save a lot of lives," said Helen Moore, a drum major in the school band.

Sullenberger was to address the 2009 graduating class at Denison High School on Saturday night, 40 years after his own graduation from that school. He made his way through downtown streets in a motorcade of convertibles before speaking briefly after the parade.

He said it was circumstance that brought together the crew on that particular flight and thanked them for their work. He said he was very proud to see that Denison had retained the small town values it had when he grew up there.

Sullenberger also thanked the widow of his Denison flight instructor. Then he scanned the crowd of people and said he had just one question: "How come you weren't this nice to me back in high school?"

Denison is a town of about 22,000 people located about 70 miles north of Dallas.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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