Reminiscing

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Mistakes happen, but when they are on an airplane, the result is often disastrous. Unless they are terrorists, no pilot wants to make that fatal mistake, because after all, they are on that plane too. Not to mention that they have families of their own that they want to go home to. Still, mistakes do happen, and sometimes they are pilot error, while other times are mechanical failure or even weather.

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 255 was preparing for takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The crew began the day, by operating the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 as Northwest Flight 750 from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. They flew to MBS International Airport in Saginaw, Michigan. They then departed Saginaw, in the same aircraft as Flight 255, flying to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, with intermediate stops at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus, Michigan…near Detroit. Their next stop was to be at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona, but they never made it to Phoenix, crashing instead.

The plane’s rate of climb was greatly reduced as a result of the flaps not being extended, and approximately 2,760 feet past the end of runway 3C. The plane’s left wing struck a light pole in a car rental car lot. The impact caused the left wing to start disintegrating and catch fire. The plane rolled 90 degrees to the left, striking the roof of an Avis Car Rental building. The plane was now completely out of control, and crashed inverted onto Middlebelt Road striking vehicles just north of its intersection with Wick Road, killing two people on the ground in a car. It then broke apart…the wreckage skidding across the road, disintegrating and bursting into flames as it hit a railroad overpass and the overpass of eastbound Interstate 94. Of the 149 people onboard, there was one survivor, a four year old girl, who lost her parents and six year old brother in the crash.

In the end pilot error was blamed for the crash, because the pilots did not run through the pre-flight checklist. There also seemed to be a “problem with electrical power to the takeoff warning system. It was caused by the loss of input 28V dc. electric power between the airplane’s left dc. bus and the CAWS unit. The interruption of the input power to the CAWS occurred at the P-40 circuit breaker. The mode of interruption could not be determined.” The flight number Northwest Airlines 255 was retired, and when Delta purchased Northwest, they continued to honor the retired number. I wondered about retiring a flight number. It seems that in fatal crashes it is customary to retire the number in honor of those lost.

Until recently, it had never occurred to me just how much my grand-niece, Jala Satterwhite is like her great grandmother, Joann Schulenberg. She doesn’t really resemble her, since Jala takes more after her mother, Susan Griffith, but there is a notable similarity nevertheless. Jala loves horses, and in many ways, would live on a horse if she could. That thought brought me back to a time when my mother-in-law’s own mother, Nettie Knox made that very statement about her own daughter, Joann. Whether we realize it or not, our parents really do know us well.

Jala didn’t have much opportunity to ride horses until her mom married her step-dad, Josh Griffith, whose family had horses. Jala was introduced to the horses, and her love of horses was sealed. Later, her parents moved out into the country, and got horses of their own, giving Jala the ability to ride much more. Because her mom had never really been around horses, and only learned to ride with a great degree of apprehension, this natural riding ability that her daughter had, left Susan somewhat in awe, but also very proud. Of course, Susan’s own abilities have greatly improved, but that does not change how she feels about her older daughter’s riding prowess. Still, I don’t think Susan realized just how much Jala was like her great grandmother. I don’t think any of us did, really. I just looked at a picture of Jala on a horse yesterday, and it was like looking at my mother-in-law on her own horse. It was crystal clear to me then.

I think that for young horse-lovers, the horse provides them with an ability to go and do things without asking a parent to take them…at least within certain limits. When my mother-in-law was a kid, they could ride to school, as well as to other towns and ranches of friends nearby, those aren’t really options for Jala, except for nearby ranches. Still, there are lots of trails available these day, and Jala loves riding on them. I’m sure her great grandmother would love them too, and maybe she is there, watching proudly as her great granddaughter, Jala continues the great tradition of horseback riding just for the love of horses. Today is Jala’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

World War II had dragged on for almost six years, when the United States took things to the next, and as it turns out, final level. For quite some time, Japan had been one of the forces to be reckoned with. Now, with so much new technology, a plan has begun to form to put an end to this war, once and for all. The Japanese had no idea what was coming…how the 6th of August, 1945 would change things forever.

That August 6th in 1945 dawned like any other day, but at it’s end, the world would find that everything had changed. The power to destroy whole cities in an instant was in our hands. At 8:16am, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The ensuing explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. Tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. With these two events, it was very clear that the nations had the ability to bring mass destruction. Hopefully, they would also have the compassion, not to do it.

With such a show of power, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender to the Japanese people in World War II in a radio address on August 14th, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb” as the reason Japan could no longer stand against the Allies. I’m sure the war-ravaged people of Japan were almost relieved. Of course, that meant that they did not know what their future would bring, but the recent past hadn’t been so great either, so they didn’t have too much to lose really.

Japan’s War Council, urged by Emperor Hirohito, submitted a formal declaration of surrender to the Allies, on August 10, but the fighting continued between the Japanese and the Soviets in Manchuria and between the Japanese and the United States in the South Pacific. During that time, a Japanese submarine attacked the Oak Hill, an American landing ship, and the Thomas F. Nickel, an American destroyer, both east of Okinawa. On August 14, when Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was coming soon, in which Japan would accept the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. The news did not go over well. More than 1,000 Japanese soldiers stormed the Imperial Palace in an attempt to find the proclamation and prevent its being transmitted to the Allies. Soldiers still loyal to Emperor Hirohito held off the attackers. That evening, General Anami, the member of the War Council most adamant against surrender, committed suicide. His reason was to atone for the Japanese army’s defeat, and he refused to hear his emperor speak the words of surrender. I guess the surrender was not a relief to everyone.

My grand-nephew, Matt Masterson has grown from being a multi-faceted little boy, who loved to pick on his sisters, Raelynn and Anna, but would also fiercely defend them, if anyone else picked on them. He loves his family and is very loyal to them. When his parents are working and the children are home alone, he is their protector, whether protection is needed or not. It just a part of the man in him. Raelynn is the older child, still at home. She is 16, while their half-sister, Christina is 23, and living on her own in Colorado, and younger sister, Anna is 12. In reality, they probably don’t need his protection, but they are grateful for Matt’s protective ways. He is also very protective of his mom, and takes on the “man of the house” role whenever his dad has to be out of town, or at work.

Matt is going into 8th grade this year, meaning he is in the last year of middle school. High school awaits him in just one year, but already I can see the high school student coming out in him already. It always seems to me that the last year of school levels, like elementary, middle, and high school, have the student oddly out of place among the younger students, but they would be out of place in the upper level too, I suppose. It’s all just a part of the transition from child to young adult, but I think Matt will make the transition with his usual ease.

Matt is an easy going sort of a guy, and there isn’t too much that bothers him. He like online gaming, like most kids his age. He likes hanging out with his cousins, and is good friends with his cousin Zack Spethman. Matt and Zack have been friends for their entire lives. The only thing that has changed is their size. Like most kids, they are not looking forward to summer’s end, even if school isn’t a bad thing. The boys like walking places like Cold Stone for get an ice cream treat. I can’t say as I blame them. That’s what summer’s all about, hot days and cold treats. Nevertheless, all too soon, summer will give way to Matt’s last year of middle school. I know it’s going to be a great year. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My great grand-niece, Alice Green is the bonus baby of my grand-nephew, Jake Harman. She is her mother, Melanie Harman’s daughter from a prior relationship, but for Jake, Alice completes his family. She was his first child, coming into his life before the younger two kids, Izabella and Jaxx. They became best friends right away. Alice was never one to be angry about Jake’s entrance into her family. I think she viewed him as the best bonus dad she could have ever asked for. I love to see their smiling faces as the play together, and with the other kids. They seem to have a similar sense of humor.

Alice is an amazing big sister, and her little sister and brother really look up to her. When she was in school, I think the house felt a little bit lonely, especially for Izabella, who thinks her sister is awesome. Jaxx wasn’t really as aware, but he will be this year, because both Alice and Izabella will be in school this year. Alice is going into 2nd grade, and Izabella will be in pre-school. Jaxx is an easy going guy, especially with two older sisters, but I know he will really miss them this year. It’s hard for me to believe that Alice is going into 2nd grade this year. Though I have not know her all her life, she was a shy little girl when I first met her, so seeing the confident 2nd grader she has become is amazing to me. She has really become friends with the whole family now.

Alice has a great smile, and uses it often. She has a great sense of humor, and loves to entertain her siblings, which is a huge help to her parents. She loves school, and is a good student. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was graduating from Kindergarten, but in reality, that has been over a year ago already. How can that possibly be? Our Alice is growing up so very fast, and I can’t imagine our family without her in it. She is a sweet little girl, who has brightened out lives at every turn. Today is Alice’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Balcerzak is a gifted computer programmer, and has helped many people with their computer issues, including me. I think the most awesome thing he has done is to rebuild old computers so that he can give them people who have a need for a computer, but cannot afford one. It is a noble thing to do, and very typical of Dave. He is a kind-hearted man, who wants to be able to help people in anyway that he can, and thankfully he has talents that allow him to be able to help a lot of people.

My niece, Chantel Balcerzak first met her now husband, Dave when they were kids in elementary school. She liked him immediately, and really never forgot him completely. Nevertheless, they both went their separate ways, and each married other people. After a number of years, families for both, and failed marriages, they met again, and it was like they were never apart. They were both free to marry now, so they did, and they created a blended family. Dave brought his two children, Keifer and Katy to the marriage, and Chantel brought her two living children, Jake and Siara to the marriage. Chantel also brought the memory of her angel baby, Alyssa, who Dave had never met, but because she belonged to Chantel, he loved her as much as any of the children…because that is the kind of man Dave is. Dave and Chantel have been blessed with three grandchildren, Izabella and Jaxx Harman, and Reece Balcerzak. They also have a bonus granddaughter, Alice Green, with whom Dave shares a birthday. And they have a grandson on the way. When I say that Dave has been blessed, I say that because I believe that Dave’s kindness and loving ways, have given him the reward of so many blessings.

Dave has been given one more blessing, and it is one that is of the type that is near to my heart…his heart. Dave developed so heart issues, that at one point caused him to have a stroke, which was caught by a CNA, while he was in the hospital. Her quick action left Dave with no lasting damage from the stroke. His heart, however, still needed some work. As the wedding of their daughter, Siara was coming and Dave was to walk her down the aisle, he worried that he would not be able to do so, but God had another plan. An interesting procedure fixed his heart, and the man who had been only able to take a few steps without being out of breath, was able to walk Siara down the aisle. He is still healthy and very blessed indeed. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, JD Parmely is a hard working man, who lives a quiet life in the house he purchased from his grandmother, Joann Schulenberg after his grandfather, Walt Schulenberg passed away. She was living in a nursing home by then, and the purchase allowed her to life out her days in peaceful happiness. I can’t imagine a better person to live in the house where we had all spent so many happy times. I think it felt like coming home for JD, because he had never known a time when his grandparents didn’t live there.

Those were happy days for little JD…for the most part. JD really didn’t life food when he was little. I remember that he made a face at almost everything. A pickier eater, there never was. I remember times when his mother, my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely resorted to M and Ms to get some calories into him. Thankfully, those days faded into the days when JD had a hollow leg, and needed a heavy duty platter of food to fill him up…after having seconds, of course.

I remember JD playing “horsey” on his grandpa leg, and loving every minute of it. He also loved being with his grandma, and being rocked to sleep on her lap. The good times JD had at the house that is now his home will always live in his memory. He helped his grandpa with his projects, and his uncles and his grandpa with work they were doing on cars. It was in this garage that JD learned the ropes on mechanics, as well as from his own dad, Keith Parmely in their garage at home. With all these mechanics in his background, I think it was pretty much a given that JD would grow up to become a mechanic, even going to college for mechanics in Arizona, before coming back home, where it wasn’t for “blazing hot.” JD loves his cars, and has about twelve of them at any given time, so having a double garage on his house makes it even more perfect for him. A double garage and the memories from his childhood…it doesn’t get better than that. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! have a great day!! We love you!!

Usually, when a plane crashes, there are signs of the crash, a mayday hail, and the signal from the locator beacon to bring help to the downed plane, to find it’s remains and the people in it, alive or dead, but sometimes circumstances align in such a way, that years can pass by before anyone comes across the wreckage. Such was the case with the August 10, 1984 crash of a Cessna L-19E “Bird Dog” that had gone out to film a particularly nasty type of beetle infestation that had been ravaging hundreds of acres of Colorado forest in and around some of the higher-elevation foothills surrounding some of the Rockies. The Cessna L-19E is a two-seater liaison and observation aircraft built for the US Military. The tandem plane departed Granby (KGNB) for the scenic flight over the Colorado mountains, but never arrived at Jeffco (KBJC) as planned.

The pilot, 38 year old James Jeb Caddell had been offered a contract by the Colorado Department of Forestry. That meant that he had mounted a VHS video camcorder on top the instrument panel for the purpose of visually recording any beetle infestation that was observed along the flight route. Caddell, who brought a friend, 38 year old Ronald Hugh Wilmond along for the flight, started the camera shortly after takeoff. It ran until the aircraft crashed down through the trees about 6-1/2 minutes later, documenting the entire trip and the cause of the crash.

Because there was no distress signal, no one knew what had happened, To make matters worse, the aircraft had tumbled into the trees and landed on the Emergency Locator Transmitter, cutting off the signal. Although there was a fire, it burnt out quickly and there was not enough damage to mark the crash site from the air. Searchers tried in vain to find the missing plane, but to no avail. They finally had no choice but to abandon the search. The plane’s wreckage was discovered three years later, when backpackers hiking through the woods found the crash site. At the site was a video tape hanging from tree branches. Incredibly, the video was found to have only minor damage, when the FAA watched it. It had not only survived the crash and subsequent fire, but three years of exposure to the elements, as well.

With nothing else to go on, the video became the primary source data. The NTSB released this accident report. “NTSB Synopsis: Probable Cause: The airplane departed Grandby 8/10/84 and failed to arrive at its destination. On 8/23/87, it was found on the slope of a high tree-covered ridge. Video tape recovered from the wreckage provided a visual and audio record of the flight from takeoff to impact. Comparing the recording to a topographical map, the flight was climbing and its altitude above the ground was decreasing when it crashed at the 10,200 feet level. During the last few seconds of the tape, the terrain dominated the view through the cockpit window. The pilot made a 60-degree bank, and the stall warning horn could be heard 3 times during approximately 180 degree of turn. the airplane subsequently stalled, flipped over, and entered the trees. The density altitude was about 13,000 feet.

The pilot continued to fly into rising terrain until he was boxed in. He saw the ski slopes which are almost certainly on the leeward side of the mountain: mountain flyers know these can produce a severe downdraft and are trained not to fly straight into them. The pilot presumably panicked because he then compounded his worsening situation with the steep turn to the right. The plane lost lift and the stall warners sounded. The altitude, temperature and humidity combined to create the density altitude of 13,000 feet when the aircraft was actually at 10,200 feet. The high density altitude, flying over Colorado mountains in August, meant that in the turn, the plane was as high as it was capable of flying and was no longer able to climb at speed.

He makes a moderately steep turn to the right (in excess of 45 to 50 degrees angle of bank) in an attempt to turn around quickly – the plane loses considerable lift and initially stalls twice; then on the 3rd stall (with the stall warning horn blaring in the background), enters the traditional “stall/spin” syndrome and flips upside down as the left (up-wing) wing stalls completely and the plane, flipping over on its back, plunges straight down through the trees – but not before capturing the pilot’s last mournful cry to his friend in the back seat: “Damn, hang on Ronnie!!” The plane smashes downwards through the thick tree branches (you can hear the heavy “thuds” as the plane’s wings smash into these while heading for the ground); it crashes and burns – killing both the pilot and back-seat passenger. Improper in-flight planning/decision by the pilot in command and airspeed not maintained are cited by the NTSB report as the probable causes, with the high density altitude and mountainous terrain given as contributing factors.”

The pilot’s family requested that the film not be released to the general public and a 20-year moratorium was placed on the footage. That expired in 2009 and the footage was released. After watching the video, I can say that it was a hard one to watch, because I, unlike the planes occupants, knew what was coming. It seemed to me, that if he just looked at the terrane coming up ahead of him, he could have made the necessary evasive action to turn around, while there was still time. Unfortunately, he was mesmerized by the view, and only realized his predicament seconds before it was all over. It doesn’t appear that his passenger had any idea that anything was wrong, at least not until Caddell uttered those final words, “Damn, hang on Ronnie!!” Several times during the video, I felt myself pushing back in my seat, as if I could make the plane gain altitude, but when he made that final turn, I felt my stomach lurch, as if I were inside the plane too. A few moments of incredible views, a little bit of inattention, and two lives were over. It was incredibly sad.

Katie Balcerzak became my grand-niece, when she married my grand-nephew, Keifer Balcerzak. Katie might say of herself that she is a tom-boy type, but I think there is a girlie side to her too…especially since she and Keifer added little Reece, affectionally known as Reece’s Pieces, to their family, on December 14, 2017. Katie loves to dress their daughter in frilly little outfits, which compliment her bubbly personality and delightful smile just perfectly. Katie and Reece have so much fun hanging out together. Katie is always teaching Reece new skills, and loves sharing the great laughs that come with baby antics and learning stumbles.

While Katie might not be a total girlie girl type, there are things whereby she definitely is. Things like having her nails done is a cool way to show off her feminine side, is one that I can relate to, since I love nail polish and nail art very much myself. I’m sure that eventually Reece will want her nails done too, because, well…like mother, like daughter, right!! I think that Reece and her mom are a lot alike. That’s why they have so much fun together. Of course, it would be hard not to smile when Reece smiles, because she is a happy baby who smiled with her whole face.

Katie loves being a mom, and has dreamed of nothing else for years. She is a good mom, who takes good care of her daughter and she’s a good wife to Keifer. They are very happy together, and they work very well together to reach their common goals. For Katie and Keifer, their family is everything. They work hard to give their family a strong bond with each other. Katie love being a mom more that any other job she has ever had, and definitely the most fulfilling career she could ever have. Raising a little life, molding it into a wonderful little person, and watching the smiles and the look of love their daughter wears on her face. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The massive number of ships that sail and have sailed the oceans are mostly safe, but by pure logic, there would also be a number of them for whom safe passage was not to be. For the steamer Alaska, August 8, 1921 would go down in history as the day when her number was up. Shortly after 9:00 pm, the Alaska was sailing south along the California coast, bound for San Francisco, when it hit Blunts Reef…twice. Blunts Reef is located 40 nautical miles south of Eureka, California.

Immediately, the crew knew they were in trouble. Wireless distress signals were flashed. Five miles away the steamer Anyox of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada picked up the signals…quickly, while disregarding fog and placing themselves in danger of striking the same rocks as the Alaska, put on full speed to the rescue. At 9:30 pm the Anyox received the Alaska‘s final message: “We are sinking by the head.” Before the Anyox could reach the stricken Alaska the ship had sunk, but that was not all that happened to the Alaska.

As the ship sunk, the ship’s boilers exploded…passengers and members of the crew of the steamer Alaska were blown from the decks of the vessel into the ocean. The Anyox, traveling dangerously fast in the foggy night, came upon a lifeboat with survivors from the Alaska. The boat was partially filled with sea water and oily scum. The oil, survivors said, had been thrown over them and into their boat by the explosion of the Alaska‘s boilers, which wrecked the Alaska amidships. The sinking of the Alaska took the lives of 48 of the 214 people on board.

According to the survivors, some of the deaths were caused by the explosion, which threw some passengers and members of the crew into the ocean. Some of those blown into the sea regained the vessel or were saved by clinging to wreckage or finding their way into lifeboats. Others, unfortunately, were either killed or drowned before help came. The Alaska’s sinking came so quickly that all the vessel’s lifeboats could not be deployed. JH Moss and CL Vilin, both of Chicago, said the lifeboat they finally reached had been swept off the decks of the Alaska as the ship settled into the ocean. Other lifeboats, never left their davits and went down with the ship. HS Laughlin of Washington DC, where he worked with the United States Shipping Board, said that a Mr and Mrs Phillips tried for an hour to be taken into a lifeboat after they had been thrown off the Alaska into the water. The survivors all praised the efforts of the officers and crew of the rescue ship Anyox under Captain Snoddy, without whom they would not have been alive.

When the Anyox picked up the first lifeboat and took its passengers aboard Second Officer Andrew Sinclair requested permission from Captain Snoddy to take the Alaska‘s lifeboat and seek survivors in the water who were swimming about and clinging to wreckage. Permission given, three seamen volunteered to accompany Sinclair. They took the lifeboat and within thirty minutes had rescued thirty persons from the water, rafts, and wreckage, and had put them aboard the Anyox. Captain Harry Hobey of the Alaska, the survivors declared, went down with his ship. Coast Guard vessels Sunday patrolled the waters looking for the wreck. The Coast Guard tugboat, Hanger brought in twelve bodies, all covered with oil. Later fishermen brought five additional bodies to San Francisco. Passengers criticized the Alaska‘s lifeboats. It was said some were not properly manned, had insufficient oars and leaked when put into the water. Nevertheless, those lifeboats had held long enough tp get the complaining passengers to safety. Sometimes, it seems like people forget to be thankful.

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