Flight 1549 lands on the Hudson River.
Photo: Steven Day/AP
Some heroes carry pompoms. Others fly planes or deliver the mail. Then, there are those who defend our country in times of war. Oprah and People magazine are recognizing some of the most extraordinary people of 2009, including the brave men and women who gave us a miracle.

On January 15, 2009, a cold, blustery day in New York City, 150 passengers and five crew members boarded U.S. Airways Flight 1549. Just before 3:30 p.m., the plane took off for Charlotte, North Carolina, and soared high above the city's skyscrapers.

Two and half minutes later, passengers heard a huge boom. It quickly became clear that something was terribly wrong. In the cockpit, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger—known as "Sully"—radioed back to LaGuardia Airport. "Hit birds," he said. "We've lost thrust in both engines."

Air traffic control told him to head back toward the airport, but it was too late. A collision with a flock of birds caused both engines to fail. In a matter of seconds, Capt. Sullenberger made the decision to land the plane wherever he could. His best option? The icy waters of the Hudson River.