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  • Tuesday US briefing: Trump’s rhetoric jars with reality of border life | US news

    Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

    Top story: ‘Invisible wall’ policies already curb immigration

    As Donald Trump continues to reject possible solutions to the longest government shutdown in US history, today the Guardian takes a closer look at the issue behind it: the US-Mexico border. Our reporters travelled to five locations along the frontier to find out how the reality of border life contradicts the president’s incendiary rhetoric. Meanwhile, Amanda Holpuch explains how the Trump administration’s “invisible wall” policies have already made it harder for immigrants to enter the US.

    Theresa May faces crushing Brexit deal defeat in parliament

    Theresa May in parliament.

    Theresa May in parliament. Photograph: House of Commons/PA

    The British prime minister, Theresa May, delivered an eleventh-hour plea to MPs on Monday to reconsider her Brexit deal with the EU, which is expected to suffer a crushing defeat when it goes to a “meaningful vote” in parliament on Tuesday. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is then expected to call a vote of no confidence in the government, in the hope of forcing a general election. But that vote too is expected to fail without support from backbench Conservatives, putting Corbyn under pressure to back a second Brexit referendum.

    Republicans condemn Steve King for ‘offensive’ comments

    Steve King at an anti-immigration rally in Washington

    Steve King at an anti-immigration rally in Washington. Photograph: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc

    House Republicans formally stripped the controversial congressman Steve King of all his committee responsibilities on Monday night, following his racially charged comments in an interview with the New York Times. In the piece, published last week, the Iowa representative asked, rhetorically: “White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Long a divisive figure within the party, King has escaped such censure in the past despite a history of such remarks.

    • Party of Lincoln. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said King’s comments were “beneath the dignity of the party of Lincoln”. King responded that McCarthy’s choice to strip him of his posts was a “political decision that ignores the truth”.

    Trump plans to relax Obama-era rules for oil companies

    US Coast Guard fire boats battle the Deepwater Horizon blaze in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010

    US Coast Guard fire boats battle the Deepwater Horizon blaze in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

    The Trump administration intends to give BP and other major oil companies more power to self-regulate their offshore drilling operations, loosening rules introduced after 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, for which lax regulatory oversight was largely to blame. Despite opposition from environmental groups, the new policy is expected to allow oil firms to select third-party companies to evaluate the safety of their equipment, without approval from the government agency that oversees offshore drilling.

    • Wish list. A lawyer who worked to revamp the offshore oil regulator told the Guardian that the administration appeared to be following an oil industry “wish list”.

    • No comment. Nobody from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Impact was available to comment because the bureau’s entire press office is furloughed during the shutdown.

    Crib sheet

    • House Democrats are expected to join the Senate in putting forward a bipartisan measure calling for an end to US military involvement in Yemen, adding to the pressure on Trump over his continued support for the Saudi Arabia regime.

    • Tensions are rising between China and Canada after Chinese authorities sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling, in what observers believe may be retaliation for the arrest of a senior Huawei executive in Canada in December.

    • Pacific Gas and Electric, the utilities firm being investigated for its role in starting November’s Camp fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, has announced it will file for bankruptcy by the end of this month.

    • A small green cotton shoot is growing onboard China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander as part of a biological growth experiment: the first time a seed has ever been germinated on the moon.


    Members of the Rwanda National Congress mourn the opposition party’s founder Patrick Karegeya in South Africa in 2014.

    Members of the Rwanda National Congress mourn the opposition party’s founder Patrick Karegeya in South Africa in 2014. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

    Who killed ‘Rwanda’s Jamal Khashoggi’?

    Before he fled Rwanda to set up an opposition party in exile, Patrick Karegeya had been a close friend of President Paul Kagame. Five years ago, he was found murdered in a Johannesburg hotel room. Now an inquest will ask whether Kagame’s regime was involved. Michela Wrong reports.

    The Swedish online love army

    When people in Sweden grew tired of trolling, they set up a Facebook group to defend those undeservedly targeted by online abuse. The group, #jagärhär (#Iamhere), now has about 75,000 members. Makana Eyre and Martin Goillandeau spoke to its founder.

    The new opposition leader challenging Maduro’s rule

    Nobody outside Venezuela had heard of Juan Guaidó until last week, when the young leader of Venezuela’s opposition offered to assume the presidency from Nicolás Maduro, who has started his second term under a cloud of election fraud accusations. Joe Parkin Daniels and Mariana Zuñiga study Guaidó’s origins.

    Crackdown fears haunt Xi’an’s Muslim quarter

    Tourists from all over China and beyond are drawn to the ancient Muslim quarter of Xi’an, at the eastern end of the old Silk Road. But as the capital of Shaanxi province approaches “megacity” status, its Muslim community still fears persecution by Chinese authorities, as Xiaomei Chen discovers.


    Trump has vowed to keep out dark forces, both real and imagined, with a “big, beautiful” wall. But, argues Adam Gawthorpe, such a barrier would do little to solve the real problems at the border.

    The idea that bricks and mortar can solve the litany of challenges that borders bring is a dangerous illusion. Hermetically sealing a nation against the outside world is neither possible or desirable.


    As the Cavs proved in 2016, the best way to beat the Warriors is to beat them up, writes Devin Gordon. That’s why the imminent return from injury of Golden State’s 275lbs center DeMarcus Cousins is so crucial to their NBA championship prospects.

    College Football champions Clemson University met the president for dinner on Monday evening, but with most of the White House kitchen staff furloughed during the shutdown, Trump was left to choose the menu: “McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King’s with some pizza,” he told reporters.

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    Support the Guardian

    We’d like to acknowledge our generous supporters who enable us to keep reporting on the critical stories. If you value what we do and would like to help, please make a contribution or become a supporter today. Thank you.

    Details emerge as Jayme Closs’s accused kidnapper appears in court

    BARRON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man accused of abducting 13-year-old Jayme Closs and holding her captive for three months made up his mind to take her when he spotted the teenager getting on a school bus near her home, authorities said Monday.

    Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, told detectives that “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” and he made two aborted trips to her family’s home before finally carrying out an attack in which he fatally shot Jayme’s mother in front of her, according to a criminal complaint filed hours before Patterson’s first court appearance.

    Prosecutors charged him with kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents Oct. 15 near Barron, about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis. He was also charged with armed robbery.

    Investigators believe Patterson hid Jayme in a remote cabin before she escaped on Thursday. Police have said the two did not know each other.

    This Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, photo shows Jayme Closs, right, with her aunt, Jennifer Smith in Barron, Wisconsin. —Jennifer Smith via AP

    Patterson sat expressionless during the court appearance, which he made via video feed from the county jail. He spoke only to acknowledge that his name and address were correct on paperwork and that he agreed to waive a speedy preliminary hearing. The judge set bail at $5 million.

    Patterson went to the home twice intending to kidnap Jayme, but broke off one attempt because too many cars were in the driveway and called off another because the house was too active, the complaint said.

    On the night she was abducted, Jayme told police, she was asleep in her room when the family dog started barking. She woke her parents as a car came up the driveway.

    She and her mother, Denise, hid in the bathroom, clutching one another in the bathtub with the shower curtain pulled shut. Her father, James, went to the front door. They heard a gunshot, and Jayme knew that James had just been killed, according to the complaint.

    Denise Closs started to call 911. Patterson broke down the bathroom door. Jayme said he was dressed in black, wearing a face mask and gloves and carrying a shotgun, the complaint said.

    Patterson told her mother to hang up and ordered her to tape Jayme’s mouth shut. He told detectives that Denise Closs struggled with the tape so he wrapped the tape himself around Jayme’s mouth and head. He then taped her hands behind her back and taped her ankles together before pulling her out of the bathtub and shooting her mother in the head.

    He dragged Jayme outside, nearly slipping in blood pooled on the floor. He threw her in the trunk and drove off, pausing to yield to three squad cars speeding toward the house with flashing lights, the complaint said.

    Patterson took her to a cabin that he said was his, ordered her into a bedroom and told her to take off her clothes and get dressed in his sister’s pajamas. He then threw her clothes into a fireplace in the cabin’s basement, according to the complaint.

    Jake Thomas Patterson makes his first appearance on video before Judge James Babler at the Barron County Justice Center in Barron, Wisconsin, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. —Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Star Tribune via AP

    Whenever he had friends over, he made clear that no one could know she was there or “bad things could happen to her,” so she had to hide under the bed. He sealed her under the bed with tote boxes and weights so she could not crawl out, according to the complaint. She had to stay under the bed whenever he left the house, sometimes going for hours without food, water or bathroom breaks.

    When his father visited, Patterson told investigators, he turned up the radio in the bedroom to cover any noise she might make.

    He said he assumed he had gotten away with the slayings and kidnappings after two weeks went by. He told detectives that on the night of the kidnapping he put stolen license plates on his car and removed an anti-kidnapping release cord from his trunk. He also shaved his head so he would not leave any hair behind and chose his father’s Mossberg shotgun because he thought it was a common model that would be hard to trace.

    Patterson, who has no criminal history in Wisconsin, was described by people who knew him as a quiet and good student who participated in quiz bowl in high school. He wrote in his high school yearbook of wanting to join the Marines. On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Marines said Patterson lasted just a little more than month in the corps before washing out in October 2015.

    Patterson told detectives he worked at the Saputo Cheese Factory near Almena for just two days before quitting. The company did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.

    His defense attorneys, Charles Glynn and Richard Jones, said they believe Patterson can get a fair trial, but they are not sure where.

    “It’s been an emotional time for this community and a difficult time for this community. We don’t take that lightly. But we have a job to do in protecting our client,” Jones said.

    Patterson’s relatives, including his father, Patrick, declined to comment after the hearing.

    After Jayme’s disappearance, police collected more than 3,500 tips, but no hard leads emerged.

    Then on Thursday, a woman walking her dog spotted Jayme along a road near Gordon, a town about an hour’s drive north of Barron. The woman said the girl begged her for help, saying Patterson had been hiding her in a nearby cabin and that she had escaped when he left her alone.

    Neighbors called 911, and officers arrested Patterson within minutes.

    Sue Allard, Jayme Closs’ aunt, enters the courtroom with family members, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Barron, Wisconsin. —Jerry Holt / Star Tribune via AP

    The New York Post published photos of the cabin Monday. The images showed a shabby living area with a couch, refrigerator, an old television set and an unfinished ceiling. Exterior photographs show a lean-to loaded with firewood, a three-car garage and an empty box of adult female diapers in a trash can. A sign over the cabin’s front door reads “Patterson’s Retreat.”

    Authorities have not said whether Jayme was sexually assaulted. The complaint does not charge Patterson with any form of sexual assault. The narrative in the document does not say what Patterson did with her.

    Prosecutors said they expect to release more information on the case before Patterson’s next hearing on Feb. 6 and that additional charges could be brought in the county where Jayme was held. They gave no details.

    Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright declined to say any more about Patterson’s motive after the hearing. But he praised Jayme for surviving.

    “She’s 13 years old, and if you read the criminal complaint, you can see the amount of control that he was exerting over her. And at some point, she found it within herself at 13 years old to say, ‘I’m going to get myself out of this situation.’ I think it’s incredible.”


    Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.

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  • Trump: ‘I never worked for Russia. It’s just a hoax’ – live updates | US news

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    Trump’s attorney general pick to say it’s “vitally important” to complete Mueller probe


    Jayme Closs, missing Wisconsin girl, found alive, authorities say


    updated on January 11, 2019

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin teenager missing for nearly three months after her parents were killed in the family home was found alive barely an hour’s drive away, by a woman who stumbled across the 13-year-old girl and pounded on a nearby home’s door shouting: ‘‘This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!’’

    Jayme was skinny and dirty, wearing shoes too big for her feet, but appeared outwardly OK when she was discovered Thursday afternoon near the small town of Gordon, the neighbors said.

    ‘‘I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,’’ Peter Kasinskas told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ‘‘My jaw just went to the floor.’’

    Authorities said a suspect was in custody, but otherwise didn’t give any additional details ahead of a planned Friday news conference in Barron, in northwestern Wisconsin.

    Jayme went missing on Oct. 15 after police discovered someone had broken into the family’s home outside Barron and fatally shot her parents, James and Denise Closs. Jayme was nowhere to be found, with the Barron County Sheriff’s Department describing her as likely abducted.

    Detectives pursued thousands of tips, watched dozens of surveillance videos and conducted numerous searches in the effort to find Jayme. Some tips led officials to recruit 2,000 volunteers for a massive ground search on Oct. 23, but it yielded no clues.

    Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said in November that he kept similar cases in the back of his mind as he worked to find Jayme, including the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. She was rescued nine months later with the help of two witnesses who recognized her abductors from an ‘‘America’s Most Wanted’’ episode.

    ‘‘I have a gut feeling she’s (Jayme’s) still alive,’’ Fitzgerald said at the time.

    He was right.

    The Star Tribune reported that Town of Gordon resident Kristin Kasinskas heard a knock on her door Thursday afternoon. It was her neighbor, who had been out walking her dog when Jayme approached her asking for help. The woman, who declined to be identified, said she was pretty sure who the girl was, but any doubt was erased when Jayme gave her name.

    During the 20 minutes Jayme was in their home, Kasinskas and her husband, Peter, tried to make her feel more comfortable, they said. They offered her water and food, but she declined both. Jayme was quiet, her emotions ‘‘pretty flat,’’ Peter Kasinskas said.

    Jayme told the couple she didn’t know where she was or anything about Gordon. From what she told them, they believed she was there for most of her disappearance.

    Gordon is about 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) south of Lake Superior and about 65 miles (104.6 kilometers) north of Barron, Jayme’s hometown. Gordon is home to about 645 people in a heavily forested region where logging is the top industry.

    The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on its website that Jayme was found in the town at 4:43 p.m. Thursday, and that a suspect was taken into custody 11 minutes later. The Associated Press couldn’t confirm the Kasinskases’ account; the sheriff’s office’s non-emergency line rang unanswered Thursday night, and Sheriff Thomas Dalbec didn’t respond to an email.

    Sue Allard, Jayme’s aunt, told the Star Tribune that she could barely express her joy after learning the news Thursday night.

    ‘‘Praise the Lord,’’ Allard said between sobs. ‘‘It’s the news we’ve been waiting on for three months. I can’t wait to get my arms around her. I just can’t wait.’’

    Barron Mayor Ron Fladten said Thursday night he was overjoyed at learning Jayme was alive.

    ‘‘There was a lot of discouragement because this took quite a while to play out,’’ Fladten said. ‘‘A lot of people have been praying daily, as I have. It’s just a great result we got tonight. It’s unbelievable. It’s like taking a big black cloud in the sky and getting rid of it and the sun comes out again.’’

    He acknowledged that Jayme may not be the same person she was before she disappeared.

    ‘‘I hope that she’s in good shape,’’ the mayor said. ‘‘She’s no doubt been through just a terrible ordeal. I think everybody wishes her a good recovery and a happy life going into the future.’’

    The notification that Jayme had been found came just four hours after Fitzgerald had taken to Twitter to debunk a report that she had been found alive near Walworth County. Douglas County, where Jayme was found, is hundreds of miles northwest of Walworth County.


    Associated Press writer Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.


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  • Jayme Closs: grandfather says teenager in ‘good spirits’ after rescue | US news

    The grandfather of a 13-year-old Jayme Closs, the girl from north-western Wisconsin who authorities say escaped a man who killed her parents and held her captive for three months, said on Sunday she’s in “exceptionally good spirits”.

    On Thursday, Jayme fled the cabin near the small town of Gordon where she said she had been imprisoned. She approached a woman walking a dog and asked for her help.

    Police officers arrested 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson minutes later, based on Jayme’s description of his vehicle. Authorities are holding Patterson on suspicion of kidnapping and homicide.

    Little has been revealed about Jayme’s ordeal since her abduction in mid-October, although more details could come on Monday when Patterson is expected to be charged and make his first appearance in court.

    Jayme’s grandfather, Robert Naiberg, said that considering the circumstances, the teen is holding up.

    “She’s doing exceptionally well for what she went through,” Naiberg said. “She’s in exceptionally good spirits.”

    On Sunday, local churchgoers said their prayers were answered by Jayme’s safe return.

    “We are overjoyed and we couldn’t be happier. It’s a miracle and it’s wonderful,” Mary Haas told the Minneapolis Star Tribune while taking down Christmas decorations after Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Barron. “We prayed and prayed and prayed.”

    Jayme has been staying with an aunt in Barron since she escaped.

    “It’s a great day up in our area,” said Larry Leff at St Peter’s Catholic Church in nearby Cameron. “God answered all our prayers.”

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    An intruder blasted open the door of James and Denise Closs’ home near Barron on 15 October. He killed the couple and abducted their daughter. While investigators have said Patterson’s goal was to kidnap Jayme, he has no apparent prior connection to the family.

    Naiberg said Jayme told FBI agents she did not know Patterson.

    Patterson’s attorneys, Charles Glynn and Richard Jones, said in a statement they consider the situation “very tragic” and are relying on the court system to treat their client fairly.

    Barron county sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told reporters Patterson took measures to avoid leaving evidence at the Closs family’s home, including shaving his head before breaking in. A shotgun was recovered from the cabin, which Patterson’s father owned.

    Motive for slaying of California policewoman still a mystery |

    DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — A gunman on a bicycle ambushed a rookie policewoman in Northern California, shooting her from the shadows, then reloaded and narrowly avoided wounding others before walking home and calmly watching the chaos he had caused, police said.

    The man who gunned down Officer Natalie Corona in this small college town on Thursday night later killed himself in a house, but police still don’t know the motive for the attack, Police Chief Darren Pytel said Friday.

    The man’s name was not released.

    Corona, 22, died within minutes of arriving at the scene of a three-car accident. She was shot in the neck and then several other times as she lay on the ground.

    “We’re speculating that she never even saw him,” Pytel said.

    Christian Pascual, 25, was one of the drivers involved in the crash. He had handed Corona his license and she was returning it when he heard shots from close behind his right shoulder.

    “The person was behind me,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

    “When I looked up and I saw the officer on the ground, he was already walking due west … just shooting at what looked like random people to me,” Pascual added.

    The gunman sprayed bullets at a firetruck, a passing bus and a house, pausing to reload. Nobody else was wounded, although a firefighter at the scene was struck in a boot as he ran and a girl later found a bullet lodged in a textbook in her backpack, the police chief said.

    Shaun Kingston, 39, saw the gunman shoot at the firetruck, “dump a clip and put another one in,” and begin calmly walking away until Kingston, who followed at a distance, lost him in the crowd.

    “He was just calm, cool and collected about it,” he said. “It was pretty damn disturbing seeing someone do that and just walk away.”

    Police had had previous contact with the man, but nothing suspicious or indicating he had mental issues, the chief said. Last year, the man reported being a victim of a crime, he said.

    The chief said that after the shooting, the killer “basically circled the block and went home.”

    At the rental home a few blocks away, he casually chatted and hung out with his roommate.

    “He didn’t show any sign that he was involved in the incident,” Pytel said, and even went outside to watch as police from around the region began rushing to the shooting scene.

    The gunman left behind a backpack that helped police track him to the house. The chief said as police began to surround it, he stepped outside wearing a bulletproof vest.

    “He shouted some stuff, went back in and came back out with a firearm, then went back inside, pushed a couch in front of the door and officers heard a gunshot,” Pytel said.

    Police eventually sent a robotic camera in and found the shooter had shot himself in the head.

    Police never fired, he said. They found two semi-automatic handguns in the home.

    The shooting devastated the Davis Police Department, which has about 60 sworn officers and about 30 other employees. Corona was the first officer in the department to die in the line of duty since 1959. She had only been patrolling solo for about two weeks, the chief said.

    From the janitor to the police chief, Corona “just wanted to be everybody’s friend, and was,” the chief said.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement Friday saying the officer died “protecting her community from harm.”

    A candlelight vigil for the slain officer was scheduled Saturday night.

    The attack occurred in a residential neighborhood up the street from a park that hosts a weekend farmer’s market. Residents placed flowers at a growing memorial outside the police department Friday, where flags flew at half-staff.

    Corona’s colleagues, family and friends mourned a vibrant life that was cut short.

    “She was the best of us,” said Davis officer Mike Yu, after placing a “Blue Lives Matter” flag at the crime scene, about a mile from the police station.

    As the eldest of four daughters, Corona grew up dreaming of becoming a law enforcement officer like her father, said her cousin, Emily Gomez, 26.

    “I don’t remember her talking about anything else than wanting to become an officer,” said Gomez, who said her cousin was an athletic star in high school, excelling in volleyball, basketball and track. She grew up in a tight-knit family in the Northern California town of Arbuckle. The family had emigrated from Mexico a few generations ago and had become established members of their community.

    Corona’s father, Jose Merced Corona, spent 26 years as a Colusa County Sheriff’s sergeant before retiring and getting elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors last November. Her mother is a first-grade teacher, and two cousins are also in law enforcement, Gomez said.

    Corona graduated from the Sacramento Police Academy last July and completed her training in December just before Christmas, officials said.

    “She was very proud,” her father told Fox40-TV, choking back tears as he spoke about how much she loved her job.

    “She would come home, she would be beaming,” her father said, his voice quivering. “She died doing what she wanted to do, what she loved.”

    He pinned the badge on his daughter at her swearing-in ceremony in August.

    Corona was the second officer killed in California in the past two and a half weeks.

    Cpl. Ronil Singh, 33, of the Newman Police Department was shot to death Dec. 26 after he stopped a suspected drunk driver.

    Gustavo Arriaga Perez, also 33, was charged with the murder. Authorities said Perez Arriaga was in the country illegally and was preparing to flee to Mexico when he was arrested. That killing rekindled a debate over California’s sanctuary law that limits cooperation by local officials with federal immigration authorities.


    Associated Press Writers Daisy Nguyen and Janie Har contributed to this report from San Francisco.

    COLUMN: How surviving the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ plane crash changed my life

    On Jan. 15, 2019, we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight that brought hope to a nation embroiled in the Great Recession.

    To the 155 passengers and crew, as well as the hundreds of first responders, it gives us a moment to reflect on the impact this event has had on our lives. Like most people, children and grandchildren were born, there were weddings and funerals for those we love, marriages and divorces, and just plain life.

    The difference is that we somehow survived this incredible, unprecedented event. We are humbled every day by this bonus of a second life. “The afterlife of near death,” as one journalist called it.

    Many of the passengers say they are turning 10 years old on Jan. 15 in our second life. We refer to each other as a second family. We are from all sides of our polarized society and political beliefs, but we are always there for each other. We would have never met each other. It proves that human decency and aid will win out in the end.

    PHOTO: Barry Leonard is seen after dedicating a library for Masai children, Aug. 2013.Barry Leonard
    Barry Leonard is seen after dedicating a library for Masai children, Aug. 2013.

    My narrative is one of the 155 astounding accounts reflecting on the last 10 years. With me, there was an urgency afterwards for creating my bucket list and aggressively pursuing each item on the list. Virtually all of the entries were comprised of experiences – none involved wealth or trophies.

    My son and I summited Mount Kilimanjaro and went on safaris. But the high point of the trip was taking a Jeep on some cow and goat trails to a school somewhere in Tanzania. We had helped donate a library to the children of the Maasai tribe. The look on their faces was the high point of this trip — and of my life.

    My daughter and I hiked part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain in November when we were mostly alone. It was a bonding, spiritual trip for both of us. And my wife and I stayed on an elephant sanctuary for several days getting to live in the environment of these awesome mammals. It only confirmed my love for elephants and what we need to do to protect them.

    Giving back became a mantra for my life. There is much I have done with the help of others and much more I plan to do. One personal way of achieving this was having an annual reunion/celebration in New York City for the passengers, crew and first responders. It has given us a forum to talk about how Flight 1549 continues to impact our lives, as only we would know; to toast to life and those we love.

    This year’s attendees will consist of passengers with some of their families, the air traffic controller and first responders, such as the doctor who cared for many of us at the ferry terminal and in the hospital, as well as ferry boat captains, a diver, NYC firefighters, a photographer and Captain Sully (by phone).

    PHOTO: Barry Leonard and his son Matthew are seen after hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, Aug. 2013.Barry Leonard
    Barry Leonard and his son Matthew are seen after hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, Aug. 2013.

    In the coming months my family will travel to India to meet the Dalai Lama, a trip that has been five years in the making. I am also going to conquer one of my great fears by jumping out of a plane at around 12,000 feet. The only other time I jumped out of a plane was from five feet above the Hudson River. My chance of survival was much less then.

    I have started writing a book about my life. I was so inspired by J.D. Vance’s book “Hillbilly Elegy” that I wanted to pen a similar account of my life. I also bought my prized guitar and want to write some lyrics and put them to music. My wife is going to teach in China for a month this summer and then we are going to travel around some places in this beautiful, ancient country.

    The reason I can spend so much time on my bucket list is that I made a promise to myself after the flight to retire before I turned 65. I achieved this over a year ago.

    I want to thank everyone who is embracing the 10-year anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson.” And I especially want to thank my mom, who has been there for me every day for the past 10 years. We provide each other with a shoulder to cry on or a hug and smile when needed. My mother understands better than anyone the 10-year bonus of life my fellow survivors and I have been given. Thank you, Maw!

    Barry Leonard was one of 155 passengers and crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. All passengers and crew survived.

    Watch “Good Morning America” Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 7 a.m. ET for Amy Robach’s exclusive interview with Capt. Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger.