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Andrea Harner
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February 27, 2009

Air Traffic Controller Tells Gripping Tale of Hudson Landing By Liz Robbins, NY Times

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Most touching part, excerpted - warning, tears may fall:

But it was Mr. Harten’s testimony that gave a new perspective on the conversations leading up to the water landing. He said he had worked in 10 to 12 emergency situations, but never one like that. On the tapes, Mr. Harten was the last person to speak to Captain Sullenberger, when he said the plane was going into the river. “I asked him to repeat himself, even though I heard him just fine. I simply could not wrap my mind around those words.”

The plane disappeared from his radar, Mr. Harten said. “It was the lowest low I ever felt,” he said. “I wanted to talk to my wife. I knew if I spoke or heard her voice, I would completely fall apart. I settled for a hasty text message — ‘Had a crash. I’m not O.K. Can’t talk now.’ ”

He said his wife, Regina Harten, told him later that when she received the text message, she thought he had been in a car accident.

“The truth was, I felt like I was hit by a bus,” he said.

As he put it: “It may sound strange, but to me the hardest, most traumatic part of the entire event was when it was over. During the emergency I was hyperfocused, I had no choice but to think and act quickly. But when it was over, it hit me hard.”

He added, “Even when I learned the truth, I could not escape the image of tragedy in my mind. Every time I saw the survivors on television, I imagined grieving widows. It’s taken me over a month for me to be able see that I did a good job. I was flexible and responsible, and I listened to what the pilots said, and I made sure I gave him the tools he needed. I was calm and in control.”

Mr. Harten is scheduled to return to the job on Thursday after 45 days of paid leave. Mr. Harten admitted that “it might take me time to regain confidence,” adding, “I know I will get there.”

After Mr. Harten finished, Captain Sullenberger told him: “This is the first time I’ve heard the detail of your experience, and I’m greatly touched by it.”



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