Friday, January 13, 2012

Still unbelievable after 30 years

We are enjoying a lovely, sunny day after a cold, raining one yesterday.  Not bad for a Friday the 13th.

Then I read the newspaper.

Thirty years ago, today, Air Florida flight 90 crashed into the 14th street bridge and the Potomac River.  Only five passengers and one crew member survived.  Others died in their cars on the bridge where they had been stuck in heavy, snow-slowed traffic.  The river was iced over which turned out to be a mixed blessing.  Survivors clung to pieces of debris and ice as an incredibly courageous U.S. Park Service helicopter crew flew dangerously close to the water to pluck them out.  An average guy, soon to be much heralded hero, Lenny Skutnik saw what was happening, scrambled from his truck, also stuck in traffic.  Unlike other observers, he lept into the frigid water to rescue a woman who was clearly in shock and would have drowned within moments.

We didn't learn all these details until much later.

I was working for a nonprofit women's organization at 17th and N Streets and walked to the restaurant where my then boyfriend was working at 21st and L.  Most everyone was caught off-guard by the quick accummulation of snow, so many of us were without boots.

When I staggered into the bar, people were blathering about a plane hitting the bridge and a Metro train crash.  I didn't believe any of it.  I'd been walking through a blizzard, in high heels across town in the tracks made by the few cars on the streets while all of was happening.

Spouse and I hung out in the restaurant until his shift was over then walked the 3/4 mile home.  Television stations replayed tape caught, by chance, by a TV news crew also stuck in traffic.  Tears still come to my eyes remembering that woman's face as she blindly tried to swim away from the crash.  Her eyes were huge with shock, but her determination kept her going until Lenny grabbed her a brought her to shore.

Thirty years later, I am very surprised that I can still feel the gut-twisting shock and disbelief of that day.  Makes me realize just how very lucky I am.

1 comment:

Mark said...

What a story! I don't remember that, that must have been awful. I am not surprised you still feel those emotions today. That isn't something that you'll ever forget.