JFK: November 22, 1963

Friday, November 22, 2013. Another Fifty Year Anniversary.

50 years ago today it was also a Friday. I was in the second grade at St. Benedict’s in Seattle. I remember sitting in my desk when the intercom crackled to life and suddenly the voice of Mr. Adamson came on. I remember thinking it was strange that he, the one male teacher in the school, was speaking, not Sister Cecelia who was the principal of the school and always made such proclamations. “Attention please,” he said. “I have an announcement to make. President Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.” I remember the gasps, the shock in the room. I remember kids asking what “that word” meant. I remember the view out the windows from the school’s second floor, how grey and  dismal it looked. John Kennedy and his family were idolized by many, including me. I think it was because of his youth, his exuberance, his beautiful wife, Jacqueline, their young children. The fact that they were Catholic, and so were we. There were just these ties that bound.

We were dismissed early from school; everything stopped, was cancelled, including my Brownie troop meeting scheduled for after-school. I remember walking home in the damp, chilly, bleak November afternoon. I remember going in the house and seeing my mother sitting in front of the T. V., something she never did in the middle of the day: for the next four days, that black and white screen would be on all the time, a rarity in our house. I remember watching the funeral, the black and white procession down wide streets lined with people, the horses, the soldiers; the continual drumming sound stays with me even now. The young widow. Her young children. It was this sad tragedy of such immense proportions, that much was clear. For me though, it was a visceral connection to my dad’s death just 9 months earlier. And, being the same age as Caroline Kennedy, I remember thinking I should write her a letter to let her know that I knew how she felt.

I consumed books on the topic for years. Read all there was to read on that day in Dallas, the Kennedy family; I followed the lives of Caroline and John as they grew. Five years later, as the Vietnam War roiled on, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in L. A., just months after Martin Luther King had been in Memphis. The shootings vividly revived the feelings of 1963, the uncertainty.  There was no stability in my country. The nation was devouring itself.

In December 1977 I visited Washington D. C. for the first time, a place I had always wanted to see. On a cold winter afternoon, we walked from the Washington Mall across the Memorial Bridge and climbed the hill to that eternal flame flickering on a snowy hillside. After paying respects in this almost mythical figure from childhood I remember looking west across the Potomac to the city that looked black and white in winter light and snowy outlines.

For the second time this year, it is hard to believe fifty years has gone by.

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Lessons Learned: Conclusion

From the Flight 705 “Lessons Learned” report: click on image for better view.

HeilAcknowledgement

 

 

 

 

705 “Lessons Learned” website: http://lessonslearned.faa.gov/ll_main.cfm?TabID=1&LLID=66

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“Lessons Learned”

One of the most frequent questions that have come into the 705 blog since it began in 2011  has been, “Why did it happen?” For some who lost people in this accident, they were very young when it happened and the information on the crash was never discussed or passed down by those who knew–for a variety of reasons. For others–their family never understood the cause at all. Now, a half century later, thanks to the Internet, descendants of those lost on 705 can go online to find answers to very basic questions. Some have made their way to this blog; now there is another online resource that can fully tell the story.

This week a full, and contemporary, explanation of 705’s story went live thanks to the “Lessons Learned” program initiated by the Safety Program Manager at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Transport Airplane Directorate. This program is dedicated to ensuring that “the loss of critical knowledge” that comes from airplane accident investigations, no matter when they happened, is stopped and reversed.

Thanks to one of my family members, Flight 705’s story was brought to the attention of the Lessons Learned team in 2011. That November, the team decided that revisiting the 1963 crash of Northwest Orient Flight 705 was warranted. The team completed their work this spring and, after final review of the materials by aviation and engineer experts, they posted their report online this week.

Special thanks to all who made this report possible and to the due diligence of the Lessons Learned team. Here’s to their findings being widely disseminated and making the skies safer for the traveling public. It is a fitting tribute to those who were on board that day.

705 “Lessons Learned” website: http://lessonslearned.faa.gov/ll_main.cfm?TabID=1&LLID=66

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June 2013

Rolling on into summer. We just marked Dad’s birthday this past June 6. He would have been 90 years old. That day he boarded 705 he was 39.

Received a notice today on the blog that Ebay was selling photos of Flight 705’s accident online. Sure enough. Graphic images of the crash site, as well as the victims, and, sadly, those who lost loved ones that day as they received the news while waiting at Chicago’s airport. It seemed unconscionable that these relics of the accident should be for sale. After contacting the company selling them, [a firm that does business digitizing newspaper photo archives and placing all the photos for sale on Ebay], they graciously agreed to remove the crash site photos from the website. Suggested to them that they send the photos to the Northwest Orient Archive at the Minnesota State Historical Society.

In the course of the day, discovered this poignant article by another person affected by Flight 705’s loss: here’s to the memory of her grandmother

http://airplanereading.org/story/119/i-wish-this-were-fiction

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Everglades National Park Press Release, February 12, 2013

With special thanks to Everglades N. P. Public Affairs Officer Mary Plumb.

http://www.nps.gov/ever/parknews/50-years-ago-today-remembering-northwest-orient-flight-705.htm

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20130212_EvergladesNatPkPressRelease

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Here’s to Jack-

Fifty years later, we all gathered in your honor. What a day.

Your wife, our mom. All six of your kids. Six grandchildren (. . . who stood in for the other five who couldn’t make it that day) and a great-grandchild to boot, (. . . who stood in for the other two gr-grandkids who were elsewhere.) And a dear representative of the generation that came along after you passed on, and a new family was created when Mom remarried: our sister from the Oly Peninsula. Not to mention our spouses as well.  All know the story. All know the impact.

In spite of fears how this memorial would play out . . .  It. Was. Great.

Great food. Great memories. Great laughter as we gathered around a long table, for the first time in a long time as your family. First hand stories came spilling out. Tales of your vagabond child, who shall be nameless, who loved to leave home at an early age and strike out on her own. Treacherous car trips across the snowy Midwestern plains in the midst of winter from Seattle to Yankton–with a passel of kids in the back of a station wagon, one having no seat belts or car seats. Hauling a Thermo-King “Demonstration Trailer” across the Rocky Mountains in a blizzard, in a mistaken direction, and doing a bootleggers turn to change course and go back the way we’d come. Those trips between South Dakota and Washington, between your folks, and our home on the Pacific Coast, were epic ones. People, adventures, places that shaped us all. We’re thankful you brought us to this neck of the woods.

Black and white photos, in a digital format now that you wouldn’t have dreamed up 60 years ago, marched across the wall in your honor. Pics of you from youngsterhood to  young adult. Your Coast Guard years, 1941 t0 ’45. Meeting mom. Getting serious. Marriage. Kids. Moves. More kids. Standing in the background of so many photos were our long-gone Midwestern relatives that we hadn’t spoken of in years.  Photos followed by some old movie footage shot by our uncle so long ago. Amazing to watch people and places from sixty years ago moving on screen, to hear my older siblings recall things about our family from before I was born. To see you and mom so young. Just starting out. To see your crazy side, when you were in the backyard at the grill, decked out in a crazy barbeque apron/hat ensemble, and flipping the steak.  To discover that your high school nickname was “Saucy.” Priceless.

It was fun to laugh–to laugh hard–to tease each other. To remember. And especially to hear Mom’s recollections about places and events as each photo brought up memories from long ago. The day ended with a chilly trek outside on a damp February afternoon so we could capture the moment before folks started heading home; we stretch across much of Washington’s northwest corner [and beyond], and it was time to be on our way.

It was good to mark this 50th anniversary milestone with a day like that. What a family you put on this planet sir. Some pretty unique whippersnappers for sure. I’m happy to say it’s trickling down to the next generations.

Here’s to you Dad-HeilJack_PhotoBoard

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Family visits: February 12, 2013

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