Hot Off The Press ... I'm In Hardcover !!

(from brother Eric Stevenson '82)

Dear friends,

I'm delighted to report that I'm part of two major books just released this week. The topic is no surprise -- 2009 has been my incredible year of US Airways flight #1549.

First, I have the great honor to be one of just a few passengers referenced by name in Captain Sullenberger's book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters". I met Sully, his wife Lorrie and their two daughters last July in Paris, when they visited France as guests of Airbus (two photos attached - and yes, my belt was made from an airline seat belt !). We had a fantastic meeting, unexpectedly lasting over 2 hours and covering many topics. Sully and I really connected, and the following week he asked me to share my story in his book.

In "Highest Duty", you'll find me on pages 233-4, in the following passage:

In 12F, a window seat just behind the wing emergency exit, forty-five-year-old Eric Stevenson was experiencing an awful feeling of deja vu. On June 30, 1987, he had been on Delta Air Lines Flight 810, a Boeing 767, traveling from Los Angeles to Cincinnati. Shortly after takeoff, as the plane was climbing over the Pacific before turning east, one of the pilots had mistakenly shut down both engines. He had done this inadvertently because of the way the engine control panel was designed and the proximity of similar engine control switches. The plane began descending from 1,700 feet, while passengers quickly donned life jackets and expected the worst. Hearing some passengers crying around him, Eric decided to take out one of his business cards and write the words "I love you" to his parents and sister. He shoved it in his pocket, figuring he was likely to die and the note might be found on his body. Then just 500 feet above the water, the passengers felt a massive burst of thrust and the plane jolted forward with full force. The pilots had restarted the engines. The flight continued to Cincinnati, its cabin littered with life preservers. After that incident, Boeing redesigned the engine control panel to prevent a recurrence.

That near-death experience led Eric to take a year off from work so he could travel the world, and every year after that, he found ways to solemnly mark the anniversary of the incident. He said it planted the seeds for his eventual move to Paris, where he continues to work as a marketing manager for Hewlett-Packard. It was while visiting the United States in January 2009 that he ended up as a passenger on Flight 1549. Sitting in 12F, looking out the window, he couldn't believe he was on another airplane without working engines.

And so he again took out a business card and wrote "Mom and Jane, I love you." He shoved it into his right front pocket and thought to himself, "This will probably get separated from my body if the cabin disintegrates." But he felt a measure of comfort knowing he had taken this step. "It was the maximum I could do," he later told me. "All of us were completely at the mercy of the two of you in the cockpit. It was a helpless feeling, knowing there was nothing we could do about the situation. So I did the only thing I could do. With the plane going down, I wanted my family to know I was thinking about them at the very last moment."

As the plane descended, Eric didn't feel panic, but he did feel the same sadness he experienced at age twenty-three, in that Boeing 767 over the Pacific. On our flight he recalled, he had the same clear thought, "This could be the end of my life. In ten or twenty seconds, I will be on the other side, whatever the other side will be."

Sully discusses his book with Jon Stewart in a humorous spot on The Daily Show:

A second book released this week, "Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549", weaves together the diverse and moving stories of the majority of passengers on board. I was interviewed extensively by the authors and appear in multiple places: on the passenger seating chart (seat 12F) and on pages 22, 38, 55-56, 80-81, 205, 212 and 233. In addition, five photos I took that fateful day are in the center photo section, including my boarding pass and the message I wrote to my mother and sister on the back of my business card (page scan attached). Most of the passages about me are similar to the excerpt above from Sully's book, however this one describes my return home:

"Eric Stevenson returned to Paris with a mix of strange feelings" at times he felt like a phantom, at times invincible. In the famously unyielding traffic of Paris, he felt "like I could step in front of any bus or walk across a freeway, and traffic was certain to stop for me,' he said. The feeling lasted about a week."

If you'd like to learn more about this amazing event and its participants "defining in a way the challenges of our collective 2009" then I encourage you to read either or both of the books (although please do not feel any obligation to do so).

Today I write you simply to share the news that for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life, I'm in hardcover - and even more importantly, that my new post-crash life really has just begun.

Celebrate each day as a blessing,

very best, Eric