We saw the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president and the swearing-in of the first Latina on the Supreme Court. We discovered it's possible to steal as much as $65 billion, and we learned a lot about what it's possible to survive - Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped as a child, discovered alive, 18 years later. And off Somalia, Captain Richard Phillips, held hostage for 5 days, managed to stay alive until Navy sharpshooters saved his life:
But for sheer drama, nothing can compete with an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River. Read below to see some of NBC’s People of the Year interviews, starting with this one with Taylor Swift.
Matt Lauer, NBC News: So you're the Entertainer of the Year in country music. You had the album of the year. You have a sold out concert tour. You got to be on Saturday Night Live, CSI. You won the Heismann Trophy. I think you won the World Cup in soccer. (laughter) What-- what am I leaving out?
Taylor Swift: You know what? I can't even believe that this year happened. A lot of it doesn't feel like it could possibly be real.
Matt Lauer: You sold out this concert tour in some places I think in Madison Square Garden. You're smiling already 'cause you know where I'm gonna-- okay. You know it. You know how long it took to sell out Madison Square Garden for you? How long?
Taylor Swift: A minute.
Matt Lauer: At-- and we're not just saying that as kind of an expression. A minute. (laughter)
Taylor Swift: It's-- it's crazy. It's crazy to think about 'cause they tell you things like never expect to play Madison Square Garden until you're like 10 years in./I have been floating on a cloud this whole year.
Matt Lauer: It's the kind of year that it seems to me is supposed to happen to someone my age. (laughter) Someone who's been toiling away for 20 or 30 years in a business. This is happening to you at 19.
Taylor Swift: It hits me throughout the day randomly I had a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. Honestly, I thought it would be so amazing if I could just get a CMA award.
In fact, she swept the country music awards and made history by becoming the youngest ever to win entertainer of the year:
Taylor Swift: Because In this moment, everything that I have ever wanted has happened to me.
Matt Lauer: I just wanna mention the names of the people who were up for that award. George Straight, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and 19-year-old Taylor Swift. It sounds like - you know, my kids have this game, "One of these things is not like the others." (laughter) Tell me your thoughts as they read your name as the winner?
Taylor Swift: I think my thoughts were just screaming. Umm, because I've opened up for every single one of the people in that category with me.
Matt Lauer: It's like a dream?
Taylor Swift: Yeah.
Taylor's year of pinch-me moments also included a surprise phone call from an unexpected admirer...
Taylor Swift: He said, "Hi Taylor. It's Lorne."
Lorne Michaels, executive producer of Saturday Night Live.
Taylor Swift: I was just like, “What's he going to say?" And he goes, "I was just calling to offer you the hosting job for Saturday Night Live." And I started screaming like I was being murdered.
Matt Lauer: I talked to Lorne Michaels the-- a day or so after you hosted that you show. One of the first things he said to me is, "You see that open she did? She wrote that." He wanted people to know that that was your work--
Taylor Swift: That's so cool that he said that. Well, I just thought that you write your monologue if you host SNL. And so I started thinking-- "There's so much to address that's happened that I could joke about, why not address it all?"
Taylor Swift, SNL monologue: You might be expecting me to say something bad about Kanye and how he ran up on stage and ruined my VMA monologue.
That's Taylor, tackling the one blemish on her otherwise perfect year. While accepting an award for best female video at the MTV video music awards, Taylor was caught off guard when Kanye West jumped on stage, stealing her microphone... And her moment.
Kanye West: Taylor,I'm really happy for you. I'm going to let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time, all time.
Matt Lauer: You've been so gracious about it. I think that's one of the things that people have said all along. But take me back to the moment. Did it seem like an out of body experience?
Taylor Swift: It just all happened really fast and it took a second to realize what was going on. I was really confused when it was going down 'cause the crowd started booing and I didn't know why. And I've never been on a stage with the entire crowd booing before. So I was just devastated 'cause I thought I'd done something wrong.
Matt Lauer: Were you even understanding what he was saying as he grabbed the mic from you?
Taylor Swift: Yeah.
Matt Lauer: So you-- you got that--
Taylor Swift: I heard--
Matt Lauer: --part? It was--
Taylor Swift: --I got--
Matt Lauer: --it was pretty--
Taylor Swift: --what he said.
Matt Lauer: --clear.
Taylor Swift: I definitely heard what he said. I try to focus on what people did for me coming to my defense and Twittering their support. That-- that's what I try to focus on, because I don't wanna-- to have a grudge. I really just appreciate how nice everyone was to me when I had a really, really weird day. It was-- it was a weird thing that happened.
Ironically, 'that weird thing' ended up making this young country star an even bigger name.
Matt Lauer: If you've achieved this at 19 how do you keep topping this act?
Taylor Swift: I've-- never won a Grammy. (laughter)
Matt Lauer: Something tells me it's not out of the realm of possibility. So it sounds like a simple question but perhaps it's not. What do you have to be thankful for right now?
Taylor Swift: The fans are the ones who have given me the most love this year. I'm thankful for that. But I'm also thankful that when I go to sleep at night I get to know that I've been myself that day. And I've been myself all the days before that. And I'm just really thankful to have been able to do that.
Matt Lauer: What a nice answer. Thanks.
Taylor Swift: Thanks.
Matt Lauer: Can we talk about the last year? And I don't mean 2009, but the last 12 months in your life. All right?
Kobe Bryant: Sure.
Matt Lauer: Got an Olympic gold medal, with the Redeam Team.
Kobe Bryant: Right.
Matt Lauer: You won an NBA Championship, MVP in the finals.
Kobe Bryant: it was a very, very good year.
More like, an unbelievable year, especially when you consider how far Kobe Bryant has rebounded from where he was just five years ago.
Accused of sexual assault, Bryant denied the allegations but admitted to an extra-marital encounter.
Kobe Bryant: "I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed ..."
The charges were later dropped, but many saw it as the end of Kobe Bryant.
Matt Lauer: When you have a year like the one you just had, and you compare it to 2004, and it was a tough year. Professionally it was a tough year. Personally it was a tough year. Legally it was a tough year.
Kobe Bryant: You know, as tough as it was for me, it was actually tougher on my family.
Once everything had transpired, you know the experts would say, well you know, it's an incurable situation. We can't fix you, and so forth and so on.
Matt Lauer: You were so concerned about it, or it was enough on your radar that you sat down with people, smart people -
Kobe Bryant: Right.
Matt Lauer: And said what do we do about that.
Kobe Bryant: Oh, absolutely. And they all said no -
Matt Lauer: You can't be fixed?
Kobe Bryant: Thanks. Great meeting. (laughter).
Matt Lauer: But then you found someone who was willing to say yes.
Kobe Bryant: Yes we did. And we put our heads together. And you know, the most important thing was not to come out and do all these interviews on camera and all these things. But it's just for people to see who you truly are, to open up.
Kobe says he not only "opened up", but "grew up" as well -- something he didn't have a chance to do when he was first drafted into the NBA fresh out of high school.
Matt Lauer: you know the knock on you earlier on. You're smiling? You won't smile after this. But a little arrogant, a little selfish.
Kobe Bryant: Right.
Matt Lauer: So was that just insecurity and immaturity?
Kobe Bryant: probably a little truth to it. I think that in order to get to a certain level, you have to have a certain amount of selfishness to be able to drive yourself. At the time I came in to the NBA, I was 18 years old.
Matt Lauer: Right.
Kobe Bryant: My teammates were, you know, 30 years old, 27 years old. And I'm talking about video games. And the conversation was just completely different. So I think for me, it helped me to be able to sit back and learn and observe and hear what people were saying about me.
Matt Lauer: Did it hurt when you were hearing it?
Kobe Bryant: It hurt, but at the same time, I looked at it as a challenge. I said, okay, well this is what the perception is. Now how can I become better?
Kobe Bryant: When I was younger, it was like, let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go. You want to win? Okay, let's go, let's do this. Why aren't you working? Come on, let's go, let's go, let's go. But as you get older, you have a family and you're trying to raise kids. And you learn patience pretty quickly.
Matt Lauer: I read two different articles, and I was curious if you think that either of these takes are right or maybe both. One article said that Kobe has been given a second chance by the fans. And the other take on the article was no, he's earned a second chance from the fans.
Kobe Bryant: Well, I'm just thankful for a second chance! (laughter)
Matt Lauer: So, the question everyone wants to know, how are you copin'? How are you doing?
Nadya Suleman: Better than I expected. (laugh)
Matt Lauer: What do you mean by that, did you expect it to be harder?
Nadya Suleman: I did. At one point when you're kind of like pushed in a hole. And you know everything's negative, you know, and shrouding you, you just think that it's never gonna get better. But I've managed to stay afloat.
From the day her octuplets were born back in February, Nadya Suleman has been arguably the most controversial mother in america. Unmarried, and with six other children, she had no apparent way to support her family of fourteen.
Matt Lauer: One of the things we always saw with like the McCaughey Septuplets, for example, was that the community poured in.
Nadya Suleman: Right.
Matt Lauer: To help these people. And I was wondering that because there was so much controversy surrounding you if perhaps that didn't happen in your neighborhood.
Nadya Suleman: Right. I had a lot of friends that would help. In regards to strangers, no, you know, they're just going to follow what the media has painted a picture of. You know, this crazy woman, who has all these kids, and she wants more.
Matt Lauer: So-- so, in other words, because of some of the headlines, you were a little radioactive?
Nadya Suleman: Well, yeah. Probably.
Matt Lauer: If I were watching TV every day, or reading the newspapers, the magazines, and people were calling me crazy. And they're not just saying it in a general term. They're saying--
Nadya Suleman: I don't take offense to that. I think every human being in varying degrees exhibits certain behavior that may be a little bit-- you know, a little unusual. But crazy to me means a little bit out of the ordinary. I don't even exhibit that behavior. But emotionally unstable, that's totally, you know, the antithesis of me. That's not me.
Matt Lauer: So, you didn't go through a particular point where the headlines were especially negative? And you didn't go out to the grocery store and kind of feel the eyes on you? And feel self-conscious about that?
Nadya Suleman: I don't remember. And if I did, then maybe those little times that I did, I was focusing on the kids.
Now she has help with the kids: four child care assistants during the day, and one at night. And she insists she's paying her own way.
Matt Lauer: So, let me just make sure I'm clear on this. Right now, the taxpayers of California--
Nadya Suleman: Oh, zero. Oh, no.
Matt Lauer: Are paying zero for the support of--
Nadya Suleman: Nothing.
Matt Lauer: --any of these 14 children.
Nadya Suleman: Zero.
Matt Lauer: Is there any payment being made for some of these caregivers coming into your home?
Nadya Suleman: No. Through me...
Matt Lauer: You're paying for all of that?
Nadya Suleman: From the very beginning.
So how is she paying for it all? By signing up for a series of paid projects,like these online video diaries, and this documentary, which aired in the U.K. earlier this month.
Nadya Suleman: It's not a sensationalized, exploitative reality show.
Matt Lauer: So, that's the difference. Is between a documentary, in your opinion, and a reality show--
Nadya Suleman: Uh...huh...
Matt Lauer: There's no way that this will exploit the children? And some might be watching this right now saying--
Nadya Suleman: Okay.
Matt Lauer: --the minute you bring cameras into that house--
Nadya Suleman: I read.
Matt Lauer: --that's gonna exploit the children.
Nadya Suleman: I agree. I agree. Actually, at the time, it took up to two weeks to do the filming. With a reality show, we're talking ongoing process of I don't know how long. Throughout a year. This is say, two weeks. And then maybe another time next year, a couple days here and there. That's very different.
Matt Lauer: What do we have here?
Nadya brought two of the babies, Noah and Isiah, to our interview at a Los Angeles hotel. She says her octuplets show no signs of disabilities, which are a risk in premature multiple births.
Nadya Suleman: I wouldn't be here right now doing any kind of interview if there was a problem with one of them.
Nadya Suleman: I'm thankful to God, because they're so unbelievably healthy. There's nothing right now. Nothing. They're all trying to crawl.
Matt Lauer: And how closely are you monitoring that?
Nadya Suleman: Half of them-- oh, you wouldn't believe how closely I'm monitoring every little thing. I'm monitoring because my-- son Adan has autism. So, I'm noticing everything. "Okay, he's not looking directly in my eyes. Oh, now he is. Okay, they're fine.
Matt Lauer: But in terms of the grip and the smile and the--
Nadya Suleman: And they're all trying to put food in their mouths. They were starting to try to crawl. Half of them are crawling before-- by-- before nine months. And all my other kids, singletons, and the twins, didn't even start crawling till over a year.
Matt Lauer: I don't want to leave out the first six children. Because let's, you know--
Nadya Suleman: I have 14, not eight.
Matt Lauer: Yeah, exactly. And you know, their world changed dramatically when these eight came into it.
Nadya Suleman: I expected the worst. That there'd be a lot of jealousy and a lot of resentment. And then I was just hoping, hoping, you know, just praying for the best. And they responded so much more positively than I ever imagined.
She deals with the barrage of tabloid coverage by seperating her identity as Nadya Suleman from what she calls the "character" of octomom:
Matt Lauer: Some people would say very negative things about--
Nadya Suleman: About that character.
Matt Lauer: --Octomom.
Nadya Suleman: Right.
Matt Lauer: And you seem to not only not take it to heart, almost show a certain disdain for it. You know, I'll take you back to Halloween.
Nadya Suleman: Oh, that's funny.
Matt Lauer: You dressed up as a pregnant nun.
Nadya Suleman: Not pregnant nun.
Matt Lauer: What was it?
Nadya Suleman: An Octonun. (laugh)
I was just myself.
I never wanted to offend, you know, the Catholic community. Absolutely not.
Matt Lauer: And dressing the kids as devils...
Nadya Suleman: This is Halloween. It's supposed to be just for fun.
Matt Lauer: And so, when people say-there's an example of her exploiting the children...
Nadya Suleman: There's an example--
Matt Lauer: You say?
Nadya Suleman: There's an example of me trying to show that I have a sense of humor.
A sense of humor might help. Some of the latest gossip links Nadya to "Jon And Kate Plus Eight" dad Jon Gosselin.
Matt Lauer: The rumor is that you A) have a crush on him.
Nadya Suleman: No. (laugh)
Matt Lauer: B) that-- that there was consideration to doing a show, a reality-type show, where you two would go on a date.
Nadya Suleman: I couldn't even think about it. I love that this happened, because this is a perfect example of what kind of erroneous beliefs are out there.
Matt Lauer: So, no, no, no? It will not happen?
Nadya Suleman: A hundred, bazillion percent: No.
And then, there's been the coverage of her amazing weight loss.
Matt Lauer: You got up to like 270 pounds...
Nadya Suleman: I did.
Matt Lauer: In ten months, you've lost like 150 pounds.
Nadya Suleman: It took longer than normal. My other kids it was in two months I was small again. People disregard genetics. And if you don't have very good genetics to begin with, no matter what you do at the gym. No matter what your lifestyle is, no matter what kind of diet you have, nothing's even gonna work.
Matt Lauer: No surgery?
Nadya Suleman: Nothing. No. I will not do that. I go to the gym at least two to three times a week. I do sit-ups.
She's definitely getting a work out with the kids. As for the future, she plans on staying a single mom of fourteen - at least for the time being.
Matt Lauer: So you know where I'm going here....Do you want to have more kids?
Nadya Suleman: No, no. alone, absolutely not. But in the future, what does the future hold for any of us?
Matt Lauer: Wait a minute. So, if you find a guy. And the guy says, "Let's have a couple of kids." You're gonna have 16 kids?
Nadya Suleman: It doesn't matter the number. And I'm not planning that. I'm certainly not planning anything in the future. Some day in the future, get married, and we have a child, a (laugh) child? That's different. But I'm talking on the present moment, I'm focusing just on my kids that I have right now.
Phillips: You are true patriots. You are the heroes in the story involving me. And I just want to thank the true heros of my incident and that's you the crew of the USS Bainbridge. Thank you very much.
It was a drama that unfolded on the high seas. The cargo ship Maersk Alabama was in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia.
Matt Lauer: You set sail completely unarmed?
Captain Richard Phillips: Correct.
Matt Lauer: But, with eyes wide open as to the dangers in the waters you were sailing.
Captain Richard Phillips: The danger's always been there and I told my crew always, it's not gonna be if, it's when.
“When” was Wednesday, April 11. Four armed pirates came on board Captain Phillip's ship. But his crew disabled the vessel so the somalis couldn't take it.
Matt Lauer: How did you end up on the lifeboat with these pirates?
Captain Richard Phillips: -- I offered them the boat. Why don't we take the boat? You wanna-- you guys wanna leave, take the boat.
Matt Lauer: The lifeboat.
Captain Richard Phillips: The rescue boat. And they were going to-- get in the rescue boat with-- some extra fuel and-- and they were gonna leave. So, I was gonna help them do that. My intention was basically to get them off the ship.
Matt Lauer: So, you were planning On-- on helping them get into the boat, and operate it. Were you planning on staying with them in that boat?
Captain Richard Phillips: No.
But the pirates wouldn't let him off the boat.
Matt Lauer: Now it's you and the four pirates. They aren't letting you go and off you go.
Captain Richard Phillips: Yep.
Matt Lauer: And now you're away from Maersk Alabama.
Captain Richard Phillips: Correct.
The world held its breath as Captain Phillips was held hostage on an 20-foot lifeboat. On his second night on the boat, he jumped in the water and tried to escape. But the pirates recaptured him.
Matt Lauer: I would imagine Rich that-- the mood on that lifeboat changed substantially after that escape attempt.
Captain Richard Phillips: Yes, it did.
Matt Lauer: Kept a gun on you more often?
Captain Richard Phillips: There was always a gun on me. To me it was looking at the end. And I just settled all my thoughts.
Matt Lauer: When you say for me it looking at the end. You mean you thought about not getting out of that boat?
Captain Richard Phillips: Oh, I didn't think I'd ever get out of that boat.
Matt Lauer: Really?
Captain Richard Phillips: Yeah.
The lifeboat had run out of fuel and was now tied to a navy destroyer. Sharpshooters were on board waiting for the moment to strike.
That moment came at dusk on Easter Sunday, April 12, four days after Phillips was taken hostage. Using night vision scopes, they fired precision shots at the lifeboat and killed his captors.
Matt Lauer: how many times have you thought since that happened, the fact that if one of those shots had missed, that pirate would have probably killed you.
Captain Richard Phillips: He would have.
Matt Lauer: There was no margin for error.
Captain Richard Phillips: What they did was impossible. And they did the impossible. And they do it day in, day out. They're titans. They're superheroes.
Life has changed dramatically for Captain Phillips since he returned home last April to a hero's welcome.
Captain Richard Phillips: The attention has been-- truly amazing to me. As I said to my wife a few times, says, "We can't even buy our own dinner anymore," because people would buy our dinner or buy us a drink. And to me, it's more the sentiment, the letters and cards and gifts, that people s-- sent to me-- really affected us.
Today he describes himself as an unemployed seaman. He's on a leave of absence, but plans to return to his ship in March.
Captain Richard Phillips: I am the same person. I'm not a hero. I'm just a regular guy. I think many of my fellow seamen, could do just as good as job as I did. So I-- I don't see myself as special. Never did. I've met a lot of heros and the heros are really the ones we never know of.
He arrived in the White House on a wave of optimism. But the euphoria soon gave way to the stark reality of governing a nation in crisis. Back in February, NBC News spoke with President Barack Obama for his first live interview in office.
President Barack Obama: I will be held accountable. I've got four years, and...
Matt Lauer: You're going to know quickly how people feel about what's happened.
President Barack Obama: That's exactly right. And you know, a year from now, I think people are going to see that we're starting to make some progress. But there's still gonna be some pain out there.
We went behind the scenes as he launched his ambitious - and controversial - agenda: an economic stimulus, the auto bailout, and health care reform - all while trying to balance his family life with his popular wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and of course, Bo. And the challenges continue as the president now decides how to fight double-digit unemployment at home and the Afghanistan war abroad.
Matt Lauer: We have just a little surprise for you. Now, the Orpheum, one of the most famous theaters in all of Los Angeles-- and we just wanted you to be welcome. So, if you can turn around now-- (laughter) you're headlining at the Orpheum. (laughter) How does-- how does it feel to see your name up in lights like that?
: That's awesome.
Matt Lauer: You like it? (laughter) Good. We're off to a good start. (laughter)
Susan Boyle laughs easily, and playfully.
Matt Lauer: Are you giving me that mischievous look?
Susan Boyle: I am. I'm being very mischievous. (laughter)
And it's not just the glamorous make-over. This just isn't the same shy, awkward woman who was greeted with rude snickers when she walked onto the stage of "Britain's Got Talent."
Her voice made skeptical jaws drop. And when her breathtaking rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" hit YouTube, the plain Jane from a tiny village in Scotland became an instant phenomenon.
Simon Cowell: Three yes!
Matt Lauer: Now, seven months later, you're one of the most talked about, and one of the most googled, one of the most internet-viewed women on the planet.
Susan Boyle: It feels very surreal. You know, as if it's not really happening.
Matt Lauer: Was there a moment when you realized it had happened? "My goodness, I'm famous" ?
Susan Boyle: I didn't give it much thought. All that I know is, there was a lot of attention. “How do you cope with all this?" Wah! (holds her head in her hands)You know?
Her precipitous rise to fame was scary -- even as fans clamored for more of her magical voice and gutsy courage --there were hurtful headlines, and rumblings about her ability to cope.
Susan Boyle: I did have a period of self-doubt, when I wasn't good enough. And there are times when, because I'm shy, sometimes I wished it would go away.
Matt Lauer: Because you could make it go away. You could say "You know what, I had my moment." I'm gonna go back to my small town in Scotland and I'm gonna get my life back."
Susan Boyle: Well, sometimes you do think that because it's only in human nature.
Matt Lauer: How would you say your confidence level is today, versus when we first saw you on that stage on April 11?
Susan Boyle: I've grown up a bit. I've become more of a lady, I don't swing my hips as much, you know (laughter). I think I've matured.
Matt Lauer: You don't long for a simpler life again?
Susan Boyle: I accept now that my life will never be the same. And I don't want it to end.
Matt Lauer: And that's okay with you.
Susan Boyle: It's okay. It's just comfortable in my shoulders right now.
It isn't likely to end anytime soon. Her debut album, featuring 11 cover tunes and one original, was so hotly anticipated, it smashed worldwide records -- easily becoming amazon.com's biggest CD pre-order ever.
Matt Lauer: U2, in 2009, you sold more in advance. Bruce Springsteen. The Dixie Chicks. Coldplay. That list and Susan Boyle is on the top of that list.
Susan Boyle: Oh heavens. That's quite awesome.
Matt Lauer: Do you feel pressure?
Susan Boyle: No, I don't feel pressure just now. I just feel a sense of humility.
Matt Lauer: The variety is incredible on the album. There are some hymns. You've got "Silent Night" on there. There are some ballads. There's a Madonna song (laughter).
Susan Boyle: I like Madonna anyway, she's good
Madonna's song "You'll See" is part of what makes this album so personal for Boyle. She says it's directed at the teachers who beat her as a child, and the kids who taunted her so cruelly.
Susan Boyle: That was a kind of statement I was trying to make because I was bullied a lot in school.
Matt Lauer: A little bit of "you know, you may have done that -
Susan Boyle: You may have done that to me when I was younger -
Matt Lauer: But you can't bully me anymore.
Susan Boyle: 'Cause I'm grown up now.
Talking about it for the first time ever, Boyle revealed that her life has always been difficult because of mild brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.
Susan Boyle: I do have a slight disability. I had difficulty trying to express myself properly, and music was kind of a release for me.
It's a release that allows her to take risks -- like tackling the Rolling Stones ballad "Wild Horses" which she first performed on "america's got talent."
Matt Lauer: I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I never thought Susan Boyle and the Rolling Stones. (laughter) Why did you choose that song?
Susan Boyle: Well the song itself is, a kind of, autobiography. Sort of dedication to my mother.
It was Boyle's mother Bridget, who died in 2007, who always pleaded with her to give singing a shot.
Matt Lauer: Is it bittersweet for you Susan that she never got to see what's happening?
Susan Boyle: She sees what's happening. She's still with me. She's still here.
Matt Lauer: I got a kick out of something I was reading about you the other day. and it talked about the fact that you've splurged on a couple of items, said that you went out and you bought a brand new burgundy - and I thought it was gonna say like Maserati or Mercedes. And what it said was a brand new burgundy sectional couch. Is that the biggest splurge you've gone with?
Susan Boyle: Well, you've gotta do your home up, haven't ya?
Matt Lauer: so you bought some new furniture.
Susan Boyle: Yeah.
Is there someone in your life now, is there someone special in your life now?
Susan Boyle: You mean a boyfriend?
Matt Lauer: Yeah.
Susan Boyle: No comment. (winks/ laughter)
Matt Lauer: And a wink, too. Good luck to you, Susan. It's been a real pleasure.
Susan Boyle: Thank you very much.
Matt Lauer: Thank you.
Matt Lauer: You both love to hike. I know that's-- kind of your decompression zone when you're out there on the trails.
Laurie Sullenberger: Yeah.
Matt Lauer: And on one of the hikes before this happened, you had somewhat of a poignant conversation?
Sully Sullenberger: Yeah. Like the day before this trip started.
Laurie Sullenberger: It was a really pretty day. And Sully just kind of looked out across the valley and said, "Gosh, with, you know, that kind of view it makes you feel like anything's possible, doesn't it?" And I said, "Yeah." And-- and we hugged and turned around and walked back off the hill. And he left the next morning for that trip.
And on that trip, those words came true. January 15, less than two minutes after take off, a flock of geese hit US Air Flight 1549 and the plane's engines lost power. Captain Chesley Sullenberger landed that plane in the frigid Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew survived. It came to be known as the Miracle on the Hudson.
Matt Lauer: So much has been written and said, Sully and Laurie, about the actual flight. Instead of going through the whole thing, I'd like to just talk about the last 30 seconds.
Sully Sullenberger: I felt like my entire consciousness existed solely to control the flight path at that part of the flight. We were so close to the water. The earth was rushing up toward us so rapidly. I had to do it right the first time. I had to make it all work out.
Matt Lauer: During those 30 seconds or minute you did not think of your family. (laughter) You're smiling. And I was--
Sully Sullenberger: There was--
Matt Lauer: I had the same reaction.
Sully Sullenberger: There was no time. You have to-- you have to realize what the stakes were. You have to realize how hard this was.
Matt Lauer: I'm with you, Sully.
Sully Sullenberger: I had to focus--
Matt Lauer: But I'm trying to put--
Sully Sullenberger: --only on that. Yeah.
Matt Lauer: --trying to think of it from her perspective.
Laurie Sullenberger: My joke to him was, "Okay, so when did you think about us, (laughter) you know, after that?"
Sully Sullenberger: I called her--
Laurie Sullenberger: --he called me--
Sully Sullenberger: --from the raft.
Matt Lauer: Okay. Four hours later you get the word. Everybody on that plane got out alive.
Sully Sullenberger: I was too spent to celebrate. I just felt like I had used every ounce of my being to-- to get through the-- that last four hours.
Laurie Sullenberger: when he first arrived home he wasn't celebrating then either.
Matt Lauer: I think people are gonna be surprised and-- and maybe a bit-- shocked at the fact that-- that there was-- no ability on your part to pat yourself on the back.
Sully Sullenberger: I didn't need to. I knew what I had done.
But in the days and weeks that followed, he found himself plagued by anxiety.
Matt Lauer: Give some idea of what it included?
Sully Sullenberger: Oh, the-- the distracted thoughts. The-- inability to focus for very long. The loss of sleep. The second guessing. What iffing. The-- high blood pressure. High pulse.
Matt Lauer: Yeah, the second guessing really--
Sully Sullenberger: Well, it was-- it's more than second guessing. It's just not knowing. And until the investigation-- the initial phase was completed And we did not know for weeks-- if we had understood it-- correctly. If we had really in fact made the most appropriate choices.
He says he was suffering symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Sully Sullenberger: --I couldn't sleep more than an hour or two at a time for days.
Matt Lauer: Wake up with nightmares or just wake up--
Sully Sullenberger: I'd wake up--
Matt Lauer: --with your--
Sully Sullenberger: --no, I--
Matt Lauer: --mind racing?
Sully Sullenberger: I couldn't shut my mind off. My mind would go right back to the event.
Matt Lauer: Was it hard to watch?
Laurie Sullenberger: I remember lying in bed and just kind of clinging to one another
But even as he struggled, Chesley Sullenberger had become a national hero. He attended the president's inaguration, was honored at the superbowl, he received the key to New York City, threw out the first pitches at baseball games, and just this fall, a book.
Matt Lauer: It's heady stuff. How'd you keep it in perspective?
Sully Sullenberger: I was 57 years old when it happened, and it was unlikely I was gonna change too much. And we worked very hard to not let this change the core of who we were
Matt Lauer: You said to not try and change too much. Laurie, is he exactly the same guy sitting next to you today that he was a year ago?
Laurie Sullenberger: He's busier (laughs).
Sully Sullenberger: I'm not the same.
Matt Lauer: No? How are you different?
Sully Sullenberger: I'm more confident. The only way that I knew that I could be comfortable with this much attention was if I was really comfortable in my own skin.
Matt Lauer: What about the relationship? Did it only help the relationship? Did it put strain on the relationship? It has to have impact.
Laurie Sullenberger: Both.
Sully Sullenberger: Sometimes it was so intense it would push us away because I was busy and I wasn't available to her or the girls. So i had my priorties screwed up.
Laurie Sullenberger: he doesn't know I'm gonna say this, but I had joked the other day that said, you know, the hero sex really helps (laughter) a 20-year-old marriage.
Sully Sullenberger: Rock star sex.
Matt Lauer: There's the headline (laughter) right there. So-- do you have to build another room just to house all the mail? (laughter) Is that-- is that what's happened?
Sully Sullenberger: Just about. We've tried to organize it.
Matt Lauer: So first of all, people find your-- your home address. They find your phone number. They find your email address.
Laurie Sullenberger: they don't actually have our mailing address. But it says, "Hero pilot, USA." And it come-- it shows up at our door.
Matt Lauer: That's a little like Santa, North Pole.
Laurie Sullenberger: That's exactly--
Sully Sullenberger: We call it Santa Cl-- we've achieved Santa Claus status.
Matt Lauer: It-- it's Thanksgiving and I don't think it's unrealistic to assume that in 154 homes-- your name is probably going to be mentioned as families gather to talk about what they give thanks for. What would you like to say to those families?
Sully Sullenberger: That we're thinking about them. That we're all joined. We're all joined in our hearts and our minds because of this event and what we've shared. The journey we've taken together. And I think we'll be joined for a while.