Sully-mania: Danville folks turn out for their hometown hero

Yes, Soccer Mom was there to witness the hometown celebrations in Danville of the heroic accomplishments of Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who steered his distressed jet to a safe landing in the Hudson River on January 15.

Sullenberger received a key to the city, a medal of valor from the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District for saving 155 lives, a bipartisan Congressional resolution (presented by U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney), and a Badge No. 1 from the Danville Police Department, making him an honorary member of the Danville Police Department.

Throughout the ceremonies, accompanied by music from the United States Army Reserve Band, the San Ramon valley High School Marching Band, and local bagpiper Nick Theriault, Sully, a trim man in a suit with mustache, displayed a shy smile and modesty. Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich emphasized that Sully didn’t really want any big celebration, but that if he would have it, he would have it in Danville, which has been the home for himself, his wife, Lorrie, and their two daughters, for the past 13 years.

Thousands flocked to the ceremony on the Danville town green, in front of the library. They included long-time Danville residents and new families who wanted to share this historic vision of a nationally proclaimed hero with their kids.

Despite the crowds, the event didn’t feel crushed, overwhelming, or over-the-top. Frankly, I was nudged into attending. I was dreading the crowds, the media circus. However, simple dignity marked the event, so did civility and good spirits, in keeping with what people say is Sully’s personality. (And, yes, I took Sully, or rather his “handlers” to task for reneging on their commitment to the Today show as a PR and social faux-pas. Well, seeing Sully in person, I’m wondering if he, or his handlers, have a very reasonable, undertandable explanation for doing so.)

This hero, whose arrival was almost as hotly anticipated as the descent of Barack Obama down those inaugural stage steps, said little. He’s barred from saying much, due to the pending investigation into his emergency water landing.
However, he expressed his gratitude for the love and support they had shown to his family. He dismissed the idea that he was any kind of divine superhero:

“It was circumstances that put this experienced crew (in charge) of that plane on that particular day,” Sullenberger said. “We were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do.”

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