Bracing for impact: ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ survivor plans turkey drive

Stan Boschert, Michael Greene, Connor Jones, Casey Jones

Casey Jones aims to buy more than 160 turkeys for homeless

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

Casey Jones was the last person to evacuate the icy left wing of submerged U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River in early 2009. He lost his footing on the listing plane and slipped into the river before being delivered — in donated clothing — to the warm safety of a New York City hotel room. Jones had a life-changing moment when he looked at his post-crash reflection in the bathroom mirror.
“My hair was going everywhere and I felt for the first time a cut on my head — the shirt I was wearing was too small and my pants were six sizes too big,” said Jones, a Fruit Cove area resident and local technology manager. “In that moment, I had this realization about what it must be like to be homeless. I was nowhere near homelessness, but every single thing I’d depended upon to get me to my destination was gone. The only phone numbers I knew were the ones I remembered. Complete strangers gave me my clothes. In that moment I went from being judgmental about why someone’s homeless to ‘holy cow, we need to do something.'”
Since then, Jones has shared his story with groups across Northeast Florida — including the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Assumption Catholic Church.
The part of Jones’ story that really resonates with people is what he did after that realization. His own personal “call to action” came via radio. He heard the Salvation Army needed 200 turkeys to feed need families in the area — but only had 25 to share. Jones describes it best in a letter he wrote to five of his friends just before Thanksgiving 2010:
“It broke my heart to think how many families won’t be able to put a turkey on the table Thanksgiving day,” he wrote in an email to his friends. “Publix has turkeys on sale this week and every $25 will buy three turkeys. I am going to Publix around lunch time tomorrow to buy some turkeys and deliver them to the donation center downtown. I am writing to you to see if you would like to donate to this cause. I’ll handle all of the logistics. I’ll buy and deliver the turkeys and I’ll make sure you have a receipt for the donation. If you feel so called to donate, simply let me know how much and I’ll take care of everything else.”
That email generated enough money for Jones to buy 140 turkeys for the Salvation Army — in less than 24 hours.
In 2011, Jones typed another email request — this time to 10 friends. His request was the same: “I just spoke with Holly at the Salvation Army and this year the need is even greater. They need 850 turkeys and have not received any yet. They are distributing to the families next Tuesday. Please read the email below and let me know if you would like to make a contribution. Thank you for considering my request.”
The result? He helped raise enough funds to cover the purchase of 160 turkeys for the Salvation Army.
This year, Jones is going at it again. He plans to ask 15 friends — and all 15,000 readers of The Resident — to see if he can break last year’s record, and help the Salvation Army at an even bigger level.
“That experience,” said Jones of his airplane crash experience, “has led me to continue to seek ways to help the homeless and less fortunate in our communities. And to do so with love and compassion in a way that does not, at any time, pass judgement.”
For more information on how to help Jones with his annual turkey drive, contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (904) 599-6125.

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