Sunday, August 13, 2006

A curious and sad connection with Stephen Colbert

Wherein not much humor

I'm watching the 60 MInutes profile of Stephen Colbert and learned something interesting. Something that affected our family deeply. I knew Stephen was from a large family, but didn't know he grew up in Charleston, SC. I also did not know that his father and two of his brothers were killed on an Eastern Airlines crash in Charlotte, NC in 1974. As soon as he said that I knew exactly what flight he was speaking of: Eastern Flight 212.

I was waiting for the school bus when it crashed. I didn't hear it, though others in my neighborhood claimed they did. I do remember hearing the siren from the volunteer fire department, then a minute later a pickup truck went by, probably doing 80. Get on the bus, and heading towards the last couple stops, traffic is backed up, then stopped. It's foggy and raining, so can't tell what happened. Eventually, the bus is let through, though no other cars are. When the last kids get on we hear they saw a plane crash in the far field. Later that night, I see a couple of these kids interviewed on the local news.

When I get home, I hear it was an Eastern Airlines flight. This was a big deal. One, Charlotte was a major hub for Eastern; two, both my parents had worked for Eastern and my dad was still a programmer with them. After a week or so, once the bodies had been recovered and the major onsite investigation had been completed, it was time to pick up all the wreckage. This was mostly done by Eastern employees. Of course the the accident was so horrendous that it wasn't uncommon to still find bits of people on a burned seat cushion. My dad worked the cleanup crews--two, maybe three weeks? Came home and burned his clothes each night. Never really asked him about it, though I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted to talk about.

Hadn't thought about that in awhile. The internet is an amazing thing. Not only did it take me seconds to confirm the flight, but the wiki link also links to the NTSB report. The school was Marie G. Davis elementary (now a middle school). I remember it being a long ride and always thought we were being bussed to the inner city. Checking googlemaps, turns out it was only about 5 miles from home and Marie G. Davis isn't quite inner city. The bus route was probably closer to ten miles and the neighborhood around the school wasn't that great. This article on Charlotte desegregation probably explains the vague memories I have of occasional riots at the high schools.


Blogger reader_iam said...

Amazing how the smallest of details are those with the most impact: the "bits of people on a burned seat cushion" and the "burned clothes," in this case.

Does thinking about this change the way your think of your Dad?

8/14/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger reader_iam said...

Then there's the thinking about Colbert's dad and brothers, and your dad, out there, helping clean up.

8/14/2006 02:26:00 PM  

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