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Historical Note

On this date in 1945, fifty-nine years ago, as World War II was coming to an end, an American B-25 bomber got lost in the fog above New York City. At 9:49 AM it crashed into the Empire State Building, damaging the 78th and 79th floors. Although it was a Saturday morning, there were people working in the building. Fourteen people were killed and twenty-six sustained injuries.

By the next week, the building was repaired and the floors were usable again.

It was this incident that prompted E.B. White in his now much more famous essay "Here is New York" to note the following:

"The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions."

Let us hope such events can stay in the past.


That crash has fascinated me ever since I saw an account of one of the survivors, a woman who was trapped in the elevator of the Empire State Building (on her birthday!) as it plummeted into and then through the basement. Thanks for keeping it alive.
Where did you come across this account? I would love to see a book about the incident.
I think it was a special on A&E a bunch of years ago, when the channel was new.
I agree. I've been doing a little tidying around the house and discovered that I kept the issues of Newsday and The New York Times from September 11, 2001. It was a sobering thing to look through those pages.
I deliberately saved that Times, plus the one about the Columbia. I presume you meant that you saved the Sept. 12 issue of the paper; I'm not sure if I saved the one dated Sept. 11 itself, although gnomi and I considered it.
"The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible."

This is not true, is it? The place almost burned down in the nineteenth century.

New York City certainly had its share of devastating fires, such as the one on 16 December 1835. But I think White was looking at a much different picture. What with the invention of the elevator and the skyscraper, along with the invention of the airplane, the type of destruction he was imaginging would be more devastating.

At least, that's my guess. You'd probably have to go back to the whole essay to get a better idea.

December 2016

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