Moments after Paul Jorgensen realized the commercial jet he was aboard was about the crash into the Hudson River, he turned to the passenger next to him, grabbed his arm and asked him, "Are we going to die? He looked me square in the eye and he nodded. He didn't say anything. He just shook his head up and down like saying yes, we're going to die," Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen, 38, a vice president of sales for Epocrates Inc., a medical software company, was sitting in a window seat in the first row window of the first class section of US Airways Flight 1549 on the afternoon of Thursday, January 15. The other 150 passengers in the plane that had left LaGuardia Airport headed for Charlotte only six minutes earlier were strangely calm and quiet as the aircraft dipped between the skyscrapers of Manhattan and New Jersey.
Only a few of the passengers were talking, and they were communicating in what Jorgensen described as non-panicked voices. He heard one or two saying that the plane must be attempting to head back to the airport.
The plane's aircrew, lead by 57-year-old Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger -- a former Air Force fighter pilot - had already decided the plane couldn't reach the safety of an airfield and had turned south, away from the George Washington Bridge and over the Hudson River next to Manhattan.
Jorgensen said the aircraft did not buck or pitch -- it smoothly, but quickly descended to the water. The fast and even descent was deceiving. Even though Jorgensen used his legs and arms to brace himself with all his might, the impact folded his body in half at the waist, driving his chest into his knees. The crash was so violent that the man seated next to him broke his sternum. Jorgensen was left with a huge bruise on his chest for weeks.
The now famous ditching of the airplane in the Hudson ended with all 150 passengers and five crew members stepping safely into rescue boats. It left Jorgensen with a new outlook on life and, as an important afterthought, a new appreciation for online data backup systems. Just like other passengers, Jorgensen lost his luggage. He also lost his ThinkPad laptop and two backup hard drives that he always carried in case the laptop crashed.
Jorgensen's group of stranded passengers was picked up by a New Jersey ferry. As the other passengers were loaded onto the ferry, Jorgensen kept busy asking if he could help in any way, but was told, "Dude, chill out. Go inside and relax."
At one point in the ferry, Jorgensen stared at the enormous plane floating nearby and found himself thinking, "damn, I wish could get in there right now. My laptop's in there, all my stuff is right there. It's not underwater yet. If I could just grab my laptop bag, I'd have all my data. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was contemplating it. That's how much stuff I had in there that I didn't want to lose. I didn't want to deal with losing all that."