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This Day in History, 1945: Empire State Building Crash

Sixty-five years ago today...

On this date in 1945, 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 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."

Five years ago on this date, I happened to be in New York City. Since it was the 60th anniversary of the event, and since 9/11 was still fresh in everyone's minds, I thought that some memorial service might have been planned. But when I called the Director of Public Relations at the Empire State Building, she told me that there was no event planned to commemorate the event or to memorialize the victims. Why? Because in 2000, for the 55th anniversary, they did have a memorial, but no one came, not even the press.

Since I'm not in New York City today, I haven't bothered to see if they were planning any sort of commemoration. Anyone know?

For those of you interested in the full story of the crash, try to find Arthur Weingarten's book about the event, The Sky is Falling. It's out of print, but available in libraries.


The official ESB website reports "No Special Events scheduled for today".

They do have an interesting page about the crash, including the story of an elevator operator who survived her elevator plunging from the 75th Floor to the sub-basement due to the crash.


December 2016

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