Sept. 11 was not the first time that a plane had crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper.
Saturday , July 28, 1945, a foggy morning, Lt. Colonel William Smith was at the controls of a U.S. Army B-25 bomber flying through New York City on his way to Newark Airport. Due to poor visibility, LaGuardia tower radioed to him to land, but Smith asked for permission to continue on to Newark. In his last transmission he stated: "From where I'm sitting, I can't see the top of the Empire State Building."
Trying to drop below the fog, Smith dropped the bomber low to regain visibility, and much to his surprise found himself smack in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by towering skyscrapers. The plane was headed directly for the New York Central Building but at the very last minute, the pilot was able to bank hard and miss it. Unfortunately, he was now pointing at another skyscraper. Somehow Smith managed to miss several skyscrapers swerving and climbing until he was pointed directly at the tallest of them all, the Empire State Building. At the last minute, Smith tried to get the bomber to climb and twist away, but it was too late.
At 9:49 a.m., the B-25 bomber smashed into the north side of the Empire State Building. The majority of the plane hit the 79th floor, creating a gaping hole in the building eighteen feet wide and twenty feet high. The plane's high-octane fuel exploded, hurtling flames down the side of the building and inside through hallways and stairwells all the way down to the 75th floor.
One of the engines and part of the landing gear flew across the 79th floor, breaking through wall partitions and fire walls, and blew out of the south windows to fall onto a twelve-story building across the street. The other engine flew into an elevator shaft and landed on an elevator car. The car began to plummet, slowed by emergency safety devices. Miraculously, when help arrived at the remains of the elevator car in the basement, the two women inside the car were still alive.
Some debris from the crash fell to the streets below, sending pedestrians running for cover, but most of the dangerous debris fell onto the buildings setbacks at the fifth floor. Still, a bulk of the wreckage remained stuck in the side of the building. After the flames were extinguished and the remains of the victims removed, the rest of the wreckage was removed through the building.
The pilot and his two passengers were killed, along with eleven workers in the offices of the Catholic War Relief Services. Debris from the plane severed the cables of an elevator, which fell 79 stories with a young woman inside. She survived.
The crash prompted new legislation that — for the first time — gave citizens the right to sue the federal government.
ALAN MAY, Realtor®
Specializing in Evanston Real Estate and North Shore Real Estate
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, 2929 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60201
847.425.3779 Cell: 847.924.3313 Email: Almay@aol.com
Evanston Real Estate & North Shore Real Estate • Licensed in Illinois
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