On Friday afternoon, September 17, 1982, at around 4:30 p.m., Brian Lenzkes and I were playing a game of tag with three girls from our class at Fulton school. Planes often flew over our school, but this time, there was a loud crashing sound. We looked up, and right above us, a larger twin-engine Beechcraft 200 plane was flying east, and its right engine/wing was smoking. Then there was a single-engine Cessna 210L that looked like it lost a wing and was in a death spiral towards the earth. We watched in horror as it was spinning out of control and the sound of the engine was screeching as it went down. It crashed with the loudest smashing sound I had ever heard less than a half-mile from where we were. Debris was falling out of the sky. We ran towards the Fulton Park playground structure for cover. We made it underneath the wood structure. After a couple of minutes, lighter debris was floating down. The girls ran home crying. Brian and I ran over to our bikes and headed towards the crash.
When we got there, the plane had crashed on the sidewalk near the intersection of Newland Street and Talbert Ave. The whole plane was over two feet deep in the sidewalk. It looked like a giant can was crushed into the sidewalk. You could smell fuel, blood, and smoke. Firemen arrived as soon as we got there, used gloved hands to pry open the smashed plane, and eventually brought in the jaws of life to open up the compacted wreckage.
We watched for hours until they pulled all of the body parts of the two lifeless men aboard that day. The other plane landed safely as eighteen firefighters stood by on a runway at John Wayne Airport. The crashed plane hit the ground at 4:43 p.m., about fifty feet from a condominium. The single-engine Cessna 210L was on a local training flight out of Santa Ana and had just completed practice landings at Chino Airport. According to the pilot of the Beech 200, at approximately 3,300 ft in a straight and level flight on a heading of 290 degrees at around 170 knots, he observed an aircraft hit his right wing and then made an emergency landing.
I could not shake the terror of seeing this accident for days afterward. The only other time I ever felt like that in my life would be during combat.
Have you ever witnessed an accident or tragedy like that before? Maybe it was even someone close to you. It's hard to forget.
“I will never forget” = “It is seared in my mind”
As I grieve over the loss of life before my eyes. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
As you will read in my book one of the most comforting things I have learned with all of the death, and destruction I have seen first hand is that true hope comes from God. The Shawshank Redemption was an amazing film and this quote in the film says it all “Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
*For more crazy stories about my life please read The Guide: Survival, Warfighting, Peacemaking.