Monday, December 13, 2010

With Due Respect to Those Lost in the Devestating Crash Of 1960, 50 yrs later

2010 marked the 50th anniversary of what history calls The New York Air Disaster. To read up on the terrible disaster refer here, to my post about it . I am going to post people's memories that I was reading on a different site. This is important, just because these tragedies happened before our time does not mean people didn't die, they shouldn't be forgotten by any means. They say if you know where to look, you can still find the evidence of the event, such as debris that is still rusting in one mans backyard.

I was a second grader at St. Augustine’s School on Sterling Place, one block from the Pillar Of Fire Church on 7th Avenue that took a direct hit. My mother’s friend Benny, maybe Bernie, was selling Christmas trees in front of the church and was, in her word, vaporized. No trace. Same for the few praying parishioners inside. From my desk, I saw a piece of flaming wreckage falling through the air and seriously considered that the Second Coming might be upon us as the Mother Superior came on the squawk box to tell us to get under our desks. I remember my late mother telling me later that the pilot(s) had seen the flag on top of my school and others and was trying to crash in Prospect Park but couldn’t make it. She must have been freaked. A plane crash a block from your daughter’s school?
My late uncle Mike was NYPD SWAT and so he came to school to get me and then to the nursery school to retrieve my sister. They would not release us into the street to walk home, of course. As I recall, he walked me home basically with his hands over my eyes. Was the body of one of the planes in the middle of Flatbush Avenue for several days? There was wreckage everywhere for a very long time, and I imagine there were body parts in the beginning, but I never saw any blood that I remember. Firetrucks, ambulances, sanitation trucks.
I’d like to observe that as a result of this crash in the midst of the Urban Renewal movement, given the devastation to the neighborhood, there was a call to raze thousands of brownstones and put up “projects,” the same buildings we now rejoice to see imploded in a big bang. Park Slope (which in those days included what is now called Prospect Heights) was not a well-to-do neighborhood. Irish-Italian working class with the highest concentration of Irish bars in America occurring along Flatbush from the Bridge to the Park. There were always, however, fancy people in the buildings along Prospect Park West and Eastern Parkway, and along 8th Avenue, which we called “Doctor’s Row.” These people banded against the Urban Renewal projects and instead created the first Historic District in New York City, a most enlightened result. Hats off to the late Evelyn Ortner, with whom I studied in the country’s first Master’s program in Historic Preservation at Columbia University and later at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn (now grown to St. Ann’s Warehouse) and all her partners in this effort.
Rest in peace, every one.
— Janine Nichols

This was worldwide headline news.
I remember this even though I hadn’t yet lived in the city of New York at the time!
It wasn’t long after this that I started flying on commercial airliners back and forth from New York City to Bangor, Maine.
We just can’t spend our lives living in fear.
— Perley J. Thibodeau

I was an intern at Kings County Hospital that tragic day. We received word two planes had crashed over Brooklyn. We sent out medical staff and ambulances to the site. In the ER we discharged patients to floors and cleared out the ER. We set up dozens of clean beds with IV Bottles hooked up and ready to administer, The medical staff was greatly saddened and upset when we were told there was no one coming to our hospital. As I recall the lone survivor was taken to Methodist Hospital.
We all felt helpless. The docs and nurses ,when they came back, commented how unprepared they felt because of a lack of planning and equipment. Thankfully now much has changed in preparedness. Lessons learned.
— Louis Cardi, MD

I lived in Atlanta and this touched me as a ten year old in 1960- I was almost the same age as Steven. I am a videographer and made this tribute video of the crash which I shared with members of the Baltz family.
thanks for the articles and look forward to reading more. as for “season to be jolly” this is more to the fragility of life and the hearts that reached out to Steven Baltz.
— mike brown

My father is a retired NYC Fire Department employee. He was a fireman on Staten Island at the time of this crash. He assisted in the recovery of bodies from the TWA plane. To this day he talks about this crash and vividly recalls how horrific it was.
— Greg Z.
The day of the crash

it is one of those events that you’ll remember as long as you live, i was in the kitchen visiting and talking with my grandfather at his home on 18 street ,about a mile from the accident site, we were stunned by the sound of the crash, it sounded like a bomb and to tell the truth being that those were the days of the deepest cold war when everybody was building atomic shelters, i thought it was an atomic bomb.on one hand we were relieved when we found out later that it wasn’t but still we were saddened by the loss of life both on air and on the ground.
— turiddhu

My family’s dear friend Herman Muller was killed in that crash. He lost the joy of his life and so did we.
He was an exciting man. On summer vacations he got my dad to help saw and chop wood for the fire of our annual big cook out of bean hole beans. During the rest of the year we’d occasionally visit his family in Hackensack, where he had built a tower in the back yard for no particular reason other than the joy of it..
I believe Herman was an ex CCC guy, and his ourdoorsy tendencies were infections. He was a great influence on our lives.
Saul Berkowitz
— Saul Berkowitz

I was in the 3rd grade at Crompond Elementary School in Yorktown Hgts., NY. The crash was announced over the loud speaker system. I remember Wendell Hoffman said his father was supposed to be on board a plane that morning. He was really scared and we were really scared for him. And my Grandpa Pete lived only a few blocks from the crash, he ran over right after it happened. He recalled that it was a terrible thing to see. Buon Natale, Nonno. Chicken Little didn’t seem so little after that crash.
As it turned out Wendell’s dad missed the plane………….
— Jeff in RI

I was sitting in a freshman class at Brooklyn College when this happened. I will never forget the sound that echoed across the borough.
— Debbie Garson

I was 9 at the time, living in Mass., and due to go with my mother and brother to visit my grandfather in Florida soon after the crash. I was glued to the news, and put up such a scream about air travel that my parents cancelled the flight and booked train tickets. During that ride between Boston and St. Petersburg I saw rural trackside poverty that changed my life.
Took me 10 years of flying to be comfortable in turbulence.
— Fraidy Cat

My late father, Ernest L. Gayle, was a top administrator of what was then the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and offered expert testimony at the inquiry which determined the cause of the crash. The day the planes collided was my sixth birthday, and I remember hearing the news on the kitchen radio in my childhood home. I will remember it always.
— debategirl1mom

I was attending St. Saviour’s High School, about 12 streets away when that plane crashed, and we could feel it in our classroom.
The nuns had us pray for the people on the plane and sent us home early. Streets were blocked off, acrid smoke mixed with the rain, and although we were told only that there was a crash and there may be survivors, we couldn’t imagine anyone surviving that impact.
It took years for me to gather enough courage to get on a plane after that, but have flown many times since. However I am always thankful upon landing and tell the pilots and crew how much I appreciate their skill and efforts.
— Marjorie Riley Nagin

My father, returning from a business trip, was booked on the United flight. He and his co-worker were running through O’Hare to catch the flight. They passed a gate where another flight was scheduled to depart for New York. My Dad, figuring they were likely to miss the United flight, said they should just wait and take the other flight. That’s what they did.
I was a child then and I remember hearing the news and the anxious hours. My mother, his company, our whole family, thought he was dead. When he surfaced, there was such overwhelming relief. My parents are gone now and this series of articles is helping me to flesh out my memories and to realize how much this must have affected my father. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized that my Dad died sixteen years later of cancer almost to the day (December 18, 1976) that this accident happened.
— Marilyn Miller

40 years from now there’s going to be a story like this about 9/11, though probably much bigger/widely read .And then all of us who’ were old enough to know what was going on will remember …just like these folks.
— Joe

I remember 12/16 /1960.
That crash took place during a bad snow storm that had started that AM. The geniuses at our Junior High in Queens literally threw us out of school at 1PM because they felt the buses that picked us up at 3PM wouldn’t make it.
None of us had boots and few had gloves or hats as the severity of the storm was a surprise.
My friends and I walked just about a mile to get home.
It was miserable.
Just one of the many reasons I hated Junior High.
When we got home the story about the collision was on all the TV stations.
— Frank Leja
I remember the collision — it transfixed the City much like 9/11 later did. The tabloids ran the story on their front pages for days. The television news media was just coming into its own in the City and covered the event and ensuing stories afterwards. One young passenger survived the crash and lived for a couple of weeks capturing the public’s sympathy.
But goodness knows — if 50 years ago that plane had fallen into any other nabe in NYC we wouldn’t be seeing this extensive write-up in Park Slope-centric CR today.
And it’s axiomatic that Park Slope (as is the case with any urban nabe) had to first decline before it could be gentrified and thus ultimately find itself home to the bulk of the NYT’s CR reporters.
That said, at the time, the plane crash seemed but another example of the decline Brooklyn seemed to be undergoing. By ‘58 the Dodgers had left and white flight was accelerating from areas like Fort Green, Brownsville, Crown Hts., East NY etc. Abraham & Straus was on its last legs as the downtown commercial center around Fulton Street went into a long-term decay. Heck, even the Heights was “in trouble”,
What a difference 50 years makes.
— George
My family lived @ 180 sterling Pl at the time of the crash. My mom thought the boiler (apt heat) had blown up. Took my brother and sister & hid under the bed. Quite a day for the Addotta family and all who lived near > One of my closest friends.. helped carry the bodies to the near make shift morgue… The Plaza Bowling Alley ! He has Never flown in a plane… .NEVER !! & never will because of this day. Says the smell still haunts him.” You never really leave a place you love… part of it you take with you, leaving a part of you behind…” : ((
— Joyce

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