FLIGHT 1549: Doreen Welsh

Doreen Welsh retirement
Flight 1549 posts

February 11, 2009

Found an interview by The Beaver County Times’ TOM FONTAINE with US AIR Flight 1549 Flight Attendant, Doreen Welsh from Economy, Pennsylvania. She was the one who walked out on the field at the Super Bowl with her Steelers’ towel in her hand. They wouldn’t let her wear a jersey but she wasn’t about to let them take away her towel. He gives a little background on her and then sets the scene.

Welsh, 58, with 38 years of experience, had been sitting by herself in the back – her preference – which hit first and bore the brunt of the impact. She has said in every interview how different her experience was from the rest of the crew. However, like the other two flight attendants, she did not know they had landed on water.

Her first indication something was wrong:

WELSH: …it felt like we hit something, and then there was a terrible smell, like an electrical fire. People up front said it was like a hard landing, but it felt like a crash to me. It was very, very violent in the rear of the plane.

When I saw the water, that was the biggest shock of my life.

And then:

I had accepted death. But then I just got this gift. I think it was Divine Intervention.

I went absolutely insane and started pushing people out, telling them to get out on the wings.

On the surreal nature of it:

Everything was calm up front. It was like there had been two entirely different accidents. One of the flight attendants was guiding people calmly out onto a raft. She asked me why I didn’t have a life jacket on, and that’s when I started feeling woozy. I grabbed a vest and just slid onto the raft.

Hard to believe things could be any type of calm in that crazy situation. She got some help from the locals.

A New Jersey man pulled Welsh onto a ferry, gave her his winter hat and sent a text message to her son, notifying him of the crash. [Her son talks about this on Larry King.] A New York cop took Welsh to the hospital, stayed throughout her hour long surgery and visited the next day. And a US Airways flight attendant supervisor named Jeff Ayers was at the hospital until Welsh’s discharge two days later. Ayers, as it turned out, is originally from Hopewell Township.

WELSH: I felt so alone and frightened. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

She said on Larry King that her son was the first face she saw when she emerged from surgery. She declined barry’s invite and was evidently feeling so bad she declined an offer from Steelers owner Dan Rooney to watch the team’s AFC Championship game from a Heinz Field luxury box. Hope she got a rain check. As for the Super Bowl?

WELSH: I probably overdid it there, but it was worth it. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Is she a hero?

I’m just a little old Ambridge girl, so this has all been surreal. I don’t really understand it. We (the crew members) all went above and beyond the call of duty, I guess, but ‘hero’ is a big word. I did what I was trained to do.

I argue she did more than that. She accepted her death and then chose to live so she could get the other people off the flight. You cannot be trained to do that. I hope she writes a book about that exact moment. I’d be more interested in that then an aeronautical engineer’s explanation of the mechanics of flight, gliding and water landings. That’s what computers are for. Welsh had a unique experience that only she can share and I sure hope she is writing about it.

She has flown several times – but she is not ready to work one one yet. Her thoughts:

I can’t even imagine putting on my uniform at this point. I still have some things to work through.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever work as a flight attendant again.

We’ll see what happens. I’m just glad to be here.

[paper removed photo]

Doreen Welsh (The Times/KEVIN LORENZI)

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