The reunions have been occurring, one by one, for the last couple of weeks. The doorbell rings and an unfamiliar face presents boxes filled with personal belongings. Many of them are ruined, but all are carefully wrapped in tissue paper and snuggled in sheets of fabric softener, as though their owners had died.
But their owners, the 150 passengers who rode US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River four months ago, are, of course, very much alive, and for each of them, it seems, there has been at least one item that matters far beyond its material value and is worth the unsettling memories its return arouses.
Lori Lightner’s strongest attachment was to her favorite pair of jeans. For Tracey Wolsko, it was the Our Lady of Lourdes medallion her husband had bought for her at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Carl Bazarian was happiest about recovering a set of car keys with the remote button to unlock the doors.
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, those items were packed in duffel bags or stuffed in purses and briefcases that were crammed in overhead bins or wedged under seats. Now, they are coming back.
“The smell was a little overpowering; imagine 100 dryer sheets all at once,” Ms. Wolsko said, describing her first sensation upon opening a box of clothes that FedEx delivered on May 4. “But a lot of care and attention went into the packaging of it. It made a very emotional experience as positive as it could have been.”
Flight 1549, which was bound for Charlotte, N.C., is remembered as a cause for celebration because all the passengers and crew members survived after the plane’s pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, expertly guided the crippled Airbus A320 into the river. Yet the respectful formality in giving back items that the passengers had to leave on the plane is standard practice for Douglass Personal Effects Administrators, the company in El Segundo, Calif., that is managing the returns. When the company returns belongings, it is often to relatives of someone who has been killed in a crash.
I am sure that for those who cleaned and packed these items, it was refreshing to know that the person who last touched them will handle them again! You can find the rest of the story here.