Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None — More than a dozen survivors from flight 1549 and the plane's entire flight crew attended a special reception Saturday night to welcome the plane to its permanent new home at Charlotte's Aviation Museum.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, the CEO of US Airways, and other dignitaries were also in attendance.
Two and a half years after sinking to the bottom of the Hudson River, US Airways flight 1549 is in Charlotte, at the Aviation Museum just two miles from the airport where it was supposed to touch down.
Barry Leonard sat in seat 1C. He spent several days in the hospital with a broken sternum but survived the landing. Saturday night, he saw the plane for the first time.
"This today was something special, that you can never imagine. All I want to do is say, 'Thank you, old girl.' Because you helped save us too," Leonard said, fighting back tears.
Passenger Beth McHugh was sitting in the rear of the plane. She said it was important to see the fuselage once again.
"This has become a symbol, and I believe completely it's a symbol of hope to people," McHugh said.
US Airways flight 1549 made a crash landing into the Hudson River minutes after taking off from a New York City airport in January 2009.
All 155 passengers survived.
Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger said he's happy the plane will stay in Charlotte.
"It's one thing to read about history or to hear about history, but it's another to see it up close and personal," Sully said.
"It served as a reminder when we very much needed one, of the goodness that exists not only in the world, but within each of us," Sullenberger added.
Co-pilot Jeff Skiles said he was "over it" the moment he learned all of his passengers were safe.
"The airplane itself really doesn't stir up any emotion for me. But coming back to an event like this, where the passengers and crew are reunited, and I can revisit the relationships that I've made with them over the last two and a half years, that's really what's important," Skiles said.
But many passengers disagreed saying they feel a special connection to 1549.
"It's about miracles. This does prove that miracles happen," Leonard said.
The fuselage is intact at the museum.
The tail will be reassembled in the next three to four weeks and the wings will be reassembled over the summer.
The flight 1549 exhibit won't open until next year. It will feature other items from the plane, including the uniform Captain Sullenberger's wore that day.
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