Luck's a funny thing sometimes; other times it hands you your life
While driving the other day, the guy on the radio was talking about former president Reagan's death. More specifically, he proclaimed it was one of those events that you always remember where you were when you heard the news. I thought about my token example of that experience - the space shuttle Challenger exploding. I thought "I remember that day, in Mrs. Henke's 4th grade class. Wait. Right? 4th grade?" I had to think about it a bit because history gets smudged a bit for me. Incidentally, that was also right around the time a more personal wierd thing happened - A plane crashed on our street. Please hold handrail.
My teacher told me and Darla Pederson (a girl who lived down the street from me) to go outside the classroom; Darla's mom was at ths school and wanted to talk to us. I wasn't worried; I was a good kid so I didn't freeze up when sent out of class - rather I thought I was going to be praised for a spelling test, or given a second lunch(Ooooh how great that'd be! Another pizzaburger!!), or handed a medal or something else silly that 9 year olds think. Darla's mom told us that a small plane had crashed while decending toward the airport runway, which was less than a mile from our house. She assured us that no one was hurt (the pilot died - I don't remember if she told us that or not), and not to be afraid when we walked home, because there would be lots of police and such.
Lemme tell ya, my first reaction was 'I can't wait to see this!' Not only because of my 9 year curiosity of wreckage, but my fascination of airplanes as well(even thought we lived underneath the damned things for 14 years). My walk home was anticiaption filled - going to see a wrecked plane, up close, on a sunny spring day. Our street was barricaded, of course. Imagine if you will, the standard trailer park - rows of aluminum breadboxes placed neatly and uniformly in rows on both sides of narrow roads, creating neighborhoods (or at least, what I knew of neighborhoods. I passed the barricade and told an officer I lived down the street. He waved me by, and I poured my vision over the sight. There it was - the left wing of Cessna jutting out of a pile of metal and fabric that used to be someone's home. It was about 10 houses away from ours, which in trailer park measurements is about 75 yards. Good thing no one was home I thought. And although the airplane did hit other trailers, the one it became a part of was a mess. Years later a gaggle of tornadoes would be standing around looking at a picture of this, nod and look at each other saying "Niiice Woorrrk!!" My mom (who was home at the time) and I talked about what happened, etc. Over the next few weeks, the buzz died down, things were cleaned up, life went on.
Snap back to present day, as I'm driving and thinking about this. Damn, it could have been our house that got hit by the plane. What then? My mom was home. Why was she home? She worked every day since I could remember. By now I had done the math (or so I thought - I'm still fuzzy on when this all happened) and said, My brothers are 9 and 11 years younger than me. My mom must have been on maternity leave. One brother born on Feb., the other in Jan. It was early spring when this happened. The realization: a strong wind out of the East and a pilot's decision from bad to worse would have left me an only child with no mother. It hit me pretty hard; I think my jaw hung loose all the way home, partially because I'd never done this analysis before.
Oh yeah, and the Challenger blew up too.