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Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

The Midway Kansas chapter of American Red Cross recently celebrated 100 years of service to the community with a luncheon for volunteers and staff. The room was decked out with artifacts and memorabilia from the century of service and the program featured stories of ordinary people who faced extraordinary circumstances and became heroes.

One of those heroes included keynote speaker Dave Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson was the last person out of US Airways Flight 1549, also known as “The Miracle on the Hudson.” On January 15, 2009, shortly after takeoff from La Guardia, the flight encountered trouble and the pilot made a remarkable landing on the Hudson River.


“Miracle on the Hudson” flight survivor, Dave Sanderson, speaks at the 100 Year Anniversary volunteer and employee luncheon. Mr. Sanderson had been a passenger on Flight 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, when it struck a flock of geese and was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. The screen shows one of the famous pictures of passengers on the wings of the plane.

In his remarks, Dave Sanderson recounted how, after the pilot and first officer made a hard landing on the river and icy water filled the plane, his mother’s words, “If you do the right thing, God will take care of it,” lent him strength to help get passengers out of the plane.

Once everyone was out of the plane, Mr. Sanderson, who learned to swim as a child through the Red Cross, managed to swim the frigid waters to a waiting ferry. Cold and exhausted, Mr. Sanderson was met at the shore by a Red Cross volunteer with a blanket and EMTs. After a brief stay in the hospital for hypothermia, the Northern New Jersey chapter of the American Red Cross gave him sweats to wear home, and the CEO of the Red Cross chapter in Charlotte was waiting at the airport with his family until Mr. Sanderson could get there.

In the six years since that flight, Mr. Sanderson has dedicated his time to assisting the Red Cross by sharing his harrowing tale and highlighting the extraordinary acts of otherwise “ordinary” people.

One such extraordinary hero honored at the centennial celebration was 12-year old Isabelle Jantz. On January 18, 2014, a then 11-year-old Isabelle was swimming with a friend in a hotel pool. What neither expected was that Isabelle’s lifesaving skills would save that friend’s life.


Red Cross Hero and Certificate of Merit recipient, Isabelle Jantz, and her proud Aunt Michelle with the award Isabelle received for saving her friend’s life.

When Isabelle noticed her friend underwater and in distress, the training she had learned through the Red Cross Learn to Swim program kicked in and she immediately pulled her friend to the surface and over to the edge of the pool. Bystanders called 911 and helped Isabelle get her friend out of the water. Isabelle and the bystanders cared for and reassured her friend until paramedics arrived.

For Isabelle, water safety is an important family affair. Isabelle learned water safety from a family friend, Jessica. Jessica’s mother, Terri, is a former Red Cross volunteer swimming instructor who has taught hundreds of people swimming and water safety skills over the years, including Isabelle’s aunt, Michelle. In turn, Michelle became a Red Cross volunteer swim instructor and taught Isabelle’s father, Jason, how to swim.

These lifesaving skills, combined with those who teach them and those willing to learn and act in times of need, are but one example of how ordinary becomes extraordinary, and we are proud to honor these everyday heroes for their selfless acts.

The Kansas centennial luncheon is one of many annual Red Cross events held across the country in celebration and recognition of the everyday heroes who go above and beyond to bring help and hope to those in need.