The Plane Crash Memorial: A Narrative


This is Roland Brewer, owner and operator of radio station WTCJ. We have just received word of an apparent plane crash near Millstone. Local farmer, George McIntrye, reported the wreckage in his field just moments ago. We are at that location now and can report that we have found a wing, part of what appears to be a fuselage undercarriage, and a large engine. It is difficult to determine exactly what has happened. But it is now quite evident that this is only part of the wreckage. Whatever has gone down is quite a sizable aircraft. Right now there is only myself and one state policeman who are trying to locate the rest of the wreckage. We are returning to our vehicles to begin what I fear is a most gruesome search.

We are having some difficulty in navigating these county roads which have, in some cases, become nearly impassable with two-foot drifts of snow. This March snowfall has certainly added to the drama of this critical situation. The only thing in our favor is that fact that we still have several hours of daylight left. Even my DeSoto seems to be resisting our efforts. I have lost the power steering and am forced to maneuver the car over this treacherous terrain with sheer muscle and my force of will. We are determined to find the rest of this plane and to offer assistance to survivors.

I see something ahead...the trees...what's that in the trees? Is it snow? Why, no--it's clothing! Every limb of every tree is strung with clothing...shirts...dresses...they look as though they've been hung out to dry. I can't...I can't believe what I'm seeing. I believe I see smoke up ahead. I'm afraid...there does appear to be...something. I'm pulling in behind the officer. We must proceed on foot.

Oh, no! What I can see is worse that you could ever imagine. There is a crater--it appears to be quite deep...perhaps 35 feet deep. There is thick smoke. I can barely make out the twisted wreckage of a large aircraft. The plane appears to have slammed itself nose first into the ground. I don't see how anyone could possibly have survived this kind of impact. As I look around in the snow I see slivers of silver/green metal, spilled fuel, and debris. I see no bodies...only indistinguishable remnants of human remains. Here is the largest identifiable piece of humanity: a part of a backbone that is still connected to a kidney. These people...these poor people. What must have happened? How long must they have known their inescapable fate? The wing and engine we first found must have been 3 or 4 miles away. I've never seen anything like this before...

...For days the Graves and Registration Troops continued to sift through the 4 or 5 acres of the wreckage, often mistaking pieces of pink airplane insulation for frozen pieces of human flesh. The smell of charred bodies, once frozen--then thawed--remains with me today. I came home from the crash site that first night and threw away my clothes. We reported the story to ABC, CBS, NBC, Canada and Mexico. A Two-inch communication cable was laid by Bell Telephone all the way from Cannelton to the crash site. Ultimately 8 or 9 coffins were provided to hold the recovered human remains of the 63 passengers and 6 crew members. All were buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but, in truth, only 2 of them actually held any contents at all. The other 6 were empty--symbolic gestures of grief.

The memorial stone you see here today does little to pass on to you the horrors that I saw that day. I beg of you to remember that the names--although unfamiliar to you--represent beloved family members--fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who never came home that snowy day in March of 1960.