The other day I got a phone call from a nice woman who had read about our Your Stories project. She wanted to see if we knew about a piece of local World War II history–the 1943 glider crash at Lambert Field. We do. In fact, Channel 9 had done a story about it some years ago. The crash was one of the biggest disasters in St. Louis aviation history–10 people including the mayor of St. Louis and other city officials died when a troop transport glider fell apart during a demonstration flight. I asked the woman why she was checking about this particular bit of history.
Well, it turns out that she witnessed the crash! I was stunned. She had been the first female radio operator (for TWA, I think, although in my surprise I didn’t catch all the details) and worked at Lambert Field. She must have been working in the tower, because she could look down on the crowd watching the demonstration. Her attention was grabbed by the sound of a spontaneous, horrified exclamation from the onlookers. She looked out and saw various pieces of the glider detach and fall to the earth.
She dashed out of her office just in time to catch a woman fainting in the hallway. It turned out to be the wife of the mayor; the poor woman had just watched her husband die.
I told the lady on the phone to please write down her story, or let us videotape her recollection. She demurred. I think the prospect of going public was alarming. “I’m 87!” she protested. And with that she conveyed the idea that she was too old, too tired and too overwhelmed with daily tasks to face dealing with anything more. She made her phone call; that was enough.
My own mother is 85, so I understand where this woman is coming from. But her story illustrates how important it is to record these memories of history before they are lost forever. If you know of someone with a story to tell, please help them tell it! You don’t have to be Ken Burns or Gore Vidal. We welcome all submissions in any form–write it, type it, video tape it, audio tape it. If you’re reading this now, you can do it!