Ben Bostic, seat 20A, and Laura Zych, 17D, were just happy to be alive when their plane landed last year on the Hudson River. Neither expected a second happy chapter in that story, but they found one when they fell in love.
"I had never been a person who thinks about fate, who believes in destiny. But in one moment everything changed," said Zych, 31, who a year ago today boarded US Airways flight 1549 at New York's LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, N.C. Six minutes after takeoff the plane landed in the middle of the Hudson River.
The moment everything changed for was not when the plane, helmed by US Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, landed in the waters off the west side of Manhattan and 150 passengers safely exited, but a split second earlier when, she says, "I felt this sinking feeling in my stomach and I thought: 'Is this really it?' And I realized I never told the people I love how much I really love them."
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Since then, Zych says, her outlook on fate has changed.
"I don't know what to call it. We were there for a reason. I have no idea why we survived, or why we found each other. But I believe it had to happen for a reason," said Zych, a department store executive who relocated to Charlotte just days before what will forever be remembered as the "Miracle on the Hudson."
Bostic, a 39-year-old computer programmer, says he first noticed the woman who would become his girlfriend in the LaGuardia departure terminal as they waited for the flight -- long before they were actually introduced.
"I noticed her that day in the airport. We were living within three miles of each other in Charlotte and may have crossed paths, but the first time I saw her was Jan. 15 in LaGuardia. She caught my attention. I didn't speak to her, but I noticed her again at the '60 Minutes' taping in February."
The pair's formal introduction had to wait for a March gathering in Charlotte, one of the monthly get-togethers the passengers nicknamed "celebration of life" reunions. The couple hit it off and talked long into the night that first evening.
"If I had just met him in a bar I would have been more standoffish. I wouldn't have offered too much information about myself," Zych said. "I'd have figured this is just another guy who wants my phone number. But instead I felt very connected. It was as if we had grown up together or known each other for years because of this one situation."
Nearly a year later, they're together and happily in love.
Today the US Airways flight 1549 passengers and crew will meet in New York to mark the flight's one-year anniversary. They plan to hold a charity breakfast to raise funds for the Red Cross and then take one of the very New York Waterway ferries that helped retrieve them to the middle of the Hudson for commemoration at 3:30 p.m., the same time the plane touched down in the river's icy waters.
Hudson River Landing Gives Couple New Outlook
Though some passengers suffered the symptoms of post-traumatic stress following the water landing, Bostic and Zych both say the incident had the opposite effect on their lives -- giving them new optimism and purpose.
"I know I've changed," said Bostic. "I'm more outgoing. I'm more apt to offer a smile to someone. I know how important the little things are now."
"We both have an appreciation for life," he said. "We want to get as much life out of every day."
As a couple, he says they make a point out of "not sitting around too much wasting time."
Neither has developed a fear of flying, and the couple loves to travel together. In recent months they have been to Chicago and Germany together.
When they meet today to commemorate the near-disaster's anniversary, Bostic and Zych say they anticipate their fellow passengers, whom they now consider members of their extended family, to all ask the same question: When are you getting married?
The couple, who do not live together, say they're taking their time and are happy just to enjoy each others' company.
Bostic says he has the same attitude about marriage that he has had about everything since the incident: "Things happen when they're supposed to happen."