Five years ago Jan. 15, he was sitting in the bedroom of his Weehawken, N.J., apartment, gazing out at the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline -- something he rarely did. Then, all of the sudden, a plane -- US Airways Flight 1549 -- came out of nowhere and crash-landed on the river with, amazingly, no fatalities.
“I thought they had to be shooting a movie or something,” Carter recalls when discussing the five-year anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson." “You don’t see a plane landing on the Hudson. Not two minutes later, I see my neighbors out there and we’re talking about it. The police were coming down. I turned on the TV to the news to see what was going on because I remember -- literally, I was sitting on my bed and it was right outside my window -- as it finally landed, the current is turning the plane, the door opens and the first two people jump out into the water.
“Now mind you, it was cold that day. So they start swimming, swimming, swimming, and all of the sudden they swim back because it was too cold. The next thing you know, everybody is on the wing.”
After the crash, Carter called Nets trainer Tim Walsh to let him know he might be a little late to that night’s game. Walsh wondered if Carter’s reason had to do with the plane crash. Carter’s response? “I said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’”
Before he finally left for the arena, Carter offered the plane’s pilot, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, tickets to that night’s game. Capt. Sullenberger understandably declined, however, given the trauma and severity of the situation.
“I was just in awe that it happened and that I got to witness it,” Carter said. “That’s history. That was something that was talked about for the rest of the year, really. ... It’s just something you really can’t explain. If you’re watching the news and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s about to make a landing,’ then OK, you’re going to look. But I was just happening to be sitting, looking outside and right into my peripheral comes a plane.
“When it hit the water, it was a smooth landing like he was landing on the runaway. That’s what I was most amazed of out of anything. He pulled it right down smooth. Of course, that big ‘ole plane hitting the water was loud -- it sounded like a big boom -- but the plane was intact. It was amazing.”
When reminded that it had been five years since the incident, Carter shook his head in disbelief. Now in his 16th season and on his fourth team in the past five years, Carter will never forget the one time he decided to skip his pregame nap routine and, instead, aimlessly stare outside his Hudson high-rise window.
“I got to witness something that special that people are always going to talk about,” Carter said. “You’re a little leery, of course, when you’re getting on planes. You’re like, '[Capt. Sullenberger] is not flying? I’m nervous.' Other than that, it was just amazing. He saved a lot of lives. They were very fortunate to have him flying the plane.”