Before she boarded US Airways Flight 1549, Vallie Collins’ life resembled the movie “Up in the Air” as the mother of three racked up frequent flier miles for her sales job.

 

“I had never been scared to fly,” she said.

 

But since the crash, she’s gripped by fear every time she steps on a plane.

 

“The takeoff is always the hardest — you’re just waiting for that boom, waiting for those birds to hit,” said Collins. “The rational side of my brain knows it’s safe. But the side of my brain that sat in that plane and landed in the river has a hard time with that.”

 

Collins sat in the back row and was one of the last off the plane. The icy Hudson River water rose nearly to her chin.

“The last exits weren’t opening and that’s actually a harder memory for me than the crash — this fear of I’m going to drown,” she recalled.

The 38-year-old Tennessean is still recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She still flies — “If you don’t, the fear wins.” Xanax before takeoff helps. But Flight 1549 will always stay with her.

“We had no control,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do sitting in the back of a plane, in your seatbelt, waiting for it to end.”