Friday, October 13, 2006

Cory Lidle's plane crash: a reminder of a B-25 crash 61 years ago

New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s plane crash into a condo building on the upper east side of Manhattan on Wednesday is a reminder of the B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building’s 78th and 79th floors in the summer of 1945. My father, Walter L. Haan, had been working in the building when it happened, fortunately on the other side of the building on the 72nd floor.

The military plane crashed when its pilot became lost in heavy fog over Manhattan. It tore a huge hole in the building, and one of its engines was thrown forward into the building and out the other side. Cory Lidle’s plane engine was also thrust forward into a condo apartment upon impact.

A small building on 33rd Street caught fire after the B-25 engine plummeted to the ground after exiting the other side of the Empire State Building.

Workers on the two floors had not seen the plane coming and had no idea what had happened.
World War II in Europe had already ended but it was still going on against Japan. Workers in the building thought it was a bomb, not an airplane. A total of 14 people died when the B-25 hit: 11 people inside the Empire State Building and three in the plane, including the pilot.

My father had praised the design of the Empire State Building because it incorporates ledges. He said the ledges were there to catch jumpers or debris from reaching all the way down to the sidewalks where it could injure people. I wonder how much of the B-25 was caught on the ledge at the 72nd floor. And of course we all remember the jumpers from the twin towers on September 11, 2001 who fell all the way down. Kindergartners being shepherded from a nearby school looked up in the air and thought that people were flying. The design of the twin towers didn’t include ledges, nor does the design of the condo building Lidle’s plane hit. Photos show the debris on the sidewalk in front of the building.---Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

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