Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Continental Connection Flight 3407

A good friend of mine named Therese was taking care of her seriously ill sister in Chicago recently, and scheduled to fly home to Long Island on Feb. 12, the same day Continental Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, NY. However, when her sister woke up that morning, it was with an hysterical premonition of bad weather---wind specifically---impacting air travel, and she begged Therese to cancel her flight. Given the intensity of her dying sister's concern, Therese accommodated her, and called Southwestern Airlines to cancel---asking, as an aside, if any flights were being canceled that day due to bad weather. She was told that some flights were being canceled due to bad weather, but only to Buffalo, New York.

I don't know what possible relevance this has to an analysis of the Flight 3407 crash, other than there is one. It killed, amongst others, 9/11-victims advocate Beverly Eckert, along with Rwanda expert Alison des Forges. I offer it up because I believe it to be true; I haven't heard of any similar reports, but I have heard a contradictory report---that of a pilot who landed shortly before the Flight 3407 crash, who said there were no weather-related issues, with only a "trace" of ice present.

When her sister heard the news of the Buffalo crash on the TV the next morning she became deeply agitated and made Therese promise to never fly in the future under the slightest risk of inclement weather---advice which carries an extra poignancy given that her sister's days seem numbered.

I have my own reasons to believe that this was a deft portend of umbra. If I have honed any clairvoyant skills in my work as a researcher here, I first learned them from Therese. We had become friends after we paired up frequently as local town-hall advocates over a period of several years.

She had learned her sixth-sense skills, particularly in knowing when people were lying or telling the truth, from her father, who had been a New York City police homicide detective. This is one reason why I suspect that all the law enforcement professionals know the real score on 9/11, but by habit and by decree, are made to keep the secret.

Her father had also been the departmental "Irish tenor," a beautifully voiced and comely man who was trotted out to sing at the openings of baseball games and other such official ceremonies. Therese's father is extremely blog worthy for another reason---by dint of an important photograph, which is at present unavailable for posting.

It is an image from a moment in the early 1960's when Elizabeth Taylor was in town to celebrate an elaborate surprise birthday fete for her then-husband, producer Mike Todd; a themed party, "Around the World in 80 Days," held in Madison Square Garden and televised around the world, which really was the pretext to launch Todd's newly released movie of the same name.

As a part of the scripted pretense of surprising Todd, at the last minute, the producers realized Taylor needed an escort for her big arrival in front of the paparazzi at the Garden. Caught empty handed, in desperation they called the mayor's office, who rustled up Therese's father, and they quickly outfitted him in black tie for the job of formal police escort. The image of this seriously photogenic man single-mindedly propelling the glamorous Elizabeth Taylor forward through the crowd by the elbow, while she was at the absolute prime in her looks, and her bejeweled cleavage, is an total icon knock-out, and I sold it as such on e-Bay. Another copy will be provided some day, I am told, and when it is, I'll share it here. If your appetite has been whetted by my description, I promise it won't disappoint. Call this "The Blog that Waits for it's Image."

But another memory of the man makes this a deeper and more synchronistic blog posting for me. Another surprise birthday party was planned, this time for Therese's 50th, years later. It was held in a local waterside restaurant on a Sunday afternoon, and it was just family and old neighborhood friends, but by dint of our current service together, I was invited to sit at Therese's table and be her surprise surprise-party guest. One of my most cherished memories happened at that lunch

Her father was a wee Irish elf of a gray-haired octogenarian by then, endlessly beaming his roguish charm. At the end of lunch, I guess by family tradition, he was asked to get up and sing a few songs, and boy did he ever. I can't remember the names of those Irish ballads, those love songs and songs of loss---only how quiet the room became, and how beautiful his voice sounded in the stillness---when suddenly, at the climb of a love song's melody, Therese let out such a great racking sob of emotion---one extended heave of sound communicating back the love between a father and daughter, as in perfect understanding the family sat there and enjoyed the song's final notes. Embraced in the hush of those mature emotions, what I felt didn't need explaining---it was, and has remained, one of the most beautiful and privileged moments of my life.

When I realized Beverly Eckert and her Jesuit husband would have had to have originally been part of the plot for my ambitiously grand conspiracy theory to remain intellectually consistent, it felt as though the floor was collapsing out beneath me. Would it ever end I wondered?

But then, almost immediately, came flooding back these sorts of powerful memories of the goodness in American families. This is more profound than any negative power or force could address, no matter who seems at any given moment to be the victor, and whom the vanquished. Policemen and firemen and airline pilots are just waiting to reclaim their real American identities, from the shades they've turned into. As awful as I feel in my task here sometimes, this balances it out.

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