Notes toward building the memorial

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Author: Colin Rafferty
Date: Spring 2012
From: Witness(Vol. 25)
Publisher: Witness
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,408 words

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1. HERE IS THE SITE, and here are the names of the people who died.

2. But to reach the site--it is remote, nearly inaccessible, and although the exit for the town is well marked--I ask the Pennsylvania Turnpike worker for directions out of town. They have printed the directions on a small flyer, and the worker peels one off and hands it to me. There are a number of turns to take. There are many ways to become lost.

3. I should stop for lunch. I have been driving since morning. Where the flyer tells me to continue straight, I turn right, into the town instead of out of it. I pull up to the first restaurant that looks good enough.

4. Inside, the restaurant is decorated in a regional theme, like those national chain restaurants, with memorabilia and photos all over the walls. Here is the Somerset Area Senior High School pennant, here is a drawing of the town in 1850, here is a coal miner's lantern. The menu has the peculiarly Pennsylvanian meal of french fries on top of salad, which I have eaten before and which is better than it sounds. I order a Reuben.

5. To stretch my legs after driving all morning, I get up and walk around the restaurant, looking at the walls of the renovated house it occupies. One room is open, but a little dark. A man on a ladder works on one of the overhead lights. I ask him if I can look around, and he says, "Sure."

6. There is no identifying label on the photo that I find in the middle of the wall, surrounded by other artifacts of the city, but I recognize it without one, though I have never seen this photo before.

7. Here is the photo: green field, green woods, and above them a black plume of smoke that looks like a balloon let go into the sky.

8. "That vanished after about ten minutes," says the man on the ladder. "I heard a boom, so I ran outside and saw that smoke rising up from the property next to ours. I grabbed my camera and took that picture. We jumped in the car and drove over there as fast as we could, and got there before any of the police did. There wasn't anything there, no big pieces of the plane. I thought a little Cessna had crashed at first."

9. "Of course, later we knew it wasn't. A guy not far from here said he saw the plane pass near him, only a couple hundred feet off the ground, upside down. Probably what happened is that they were struggling for control in the cockpit, the plane rolled over, someone got a hold of the stick, and--you know how you pull back on the stick to go up?--pulled back, which sent the plane almost vertically into the ground."

10. He has made his hand into the plane, pushing it forward, turning it over, and bending it downward.

11. "We'd just had a bunch of...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Rafferty, Colin. "Notes toward building the memorial." Witness, vol. 25, spring 2012, pp. 119+. Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A319974921