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Everyone loves a hero -- especially pilot Sully

May 31, 2009 |  9:39 am


A crowd of nearly 300 people crammed into the Uptown Author’s Stage on Saturday at BEA to hear Capt. Chesler “Sully” Sullenberger III, the US Airways pilot who glided a disabled passenger jet to a safe splashdown landing in the middle of the Hudson River on Jan. 15. In a lovely bit of location synergy, the Jacobs K. Javits Convention Center, where Book Expo America is being held this weekend, is just a few blocks from where the world watched potential disaster change into a remarkable moment of survival of 155 people.

Sullenberger took the podium a few minutes after 3 p.m., thanked the crowd, and talked a bit about his book-in-progress, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters" with co-author Jeffrey Zaslow. “This has been a year of many firsts for me – I didn’t expect to be an author,” Sullenberger joked.

He said the book would recap the landing of the plane and “the way I’ve been able to reflect upon my life and ... the way I’ve chosen to live and to think and to view the world that turned out, in retrospect, to be a preparation not only for the events of Jan. 15, but for its inevitable aftermath. And I think it’s a universal story that’s not just my story or your story but it’s our story. It’s a human story.” A few moments later he was done – less than three minutes in all, then he sat at a table to sign bound sample chapters.

Some in the audience were annoyed by the short presentation. Jeannie Moretto, a librarian from Bradley Beach, N.J., got there early with friend Grace Vetrano to make sure they got seats. "We moved a lot because people kept cutting in front of us," Moretto said as she waited in line to get an autograph. "By the time we got settled, it was over."

Alicja Feitzinger of Dix Hills, N.Y., said she was happy to wait in a long line to get an autograph, even though she was none too happy with the short talk. "I don’t like to fly," she said, "so I’m going to hang on to that signature every time I fly."

So, do you think the book will sell? There aren’t many sure things in publishing these days, but “Highest Duty” looks to be one of them.

-- Scott Martelle

Photo: Brendan McDermid / Reuters