In Denison, Country Java is the popular local cafe. These days all the patrons are buzzing about one person, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, known in this town as 'Bernie.' "It was amazing to see someone from Denison who is now a national hero," says resident Terry Nixon.
No one in the small town of 23,000 people, just north of Dallas, seems surprised by the heroic actions of the US Airways pilot who safely landed a jet packed full of people on the Hudson River. Sullenberger graduated from Denison High School in 1969, where he was an honor student.
Superintendent Scott Henry says Sullenberger excelled in everything he did. "He was involved in a lot of academics, he was the Latin club president and first chair flute," says Henry. "He was just the model student." Former classmates recall Sullenberger as calm and collected, even 40 years ago.
"He was the student who everyone wanted to sit behind in class because he was so smart," says Mayor Robert Brady, who graduated with Sullenberger. Brady says Sullenberger got his pilot's license at age 14. "God put him that position for a reason. It's something he has been preparing for all his life," says Brady.
For years, Denison has been been known as the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose small white house is maintained as a historic site. City Council members say they are considering how to pay tribute to their newest homegrown hero. School officials say Sullenberger has been invited to be the commencement speaker later this year. No word of whether the new national hero will accept.
'Hero on the Hudson' Pilot grew up in North Texas
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