It was shortly before Christmas, 1960. Evalyn and I had both had early morning finals but now they were over. We walked from the NYU campus back to her parents' apartment on the fifth floor of 302 West 12th Street for a torrid makeout session in the bedroom she shared with her two sisters, both of whom were away at college. Evalyn's parents both worked so we had the apartment to ourselves.
Passion spent, I put one of her LPs on the communal record player in the girls' bedroom. It was Harry Belafonte, who had co-starred with Glen Ford in "The Blackboard Jungle", the theme music to which was Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock". I listened to "Day-O" a couple of times, fascinated by an instrument that to this day I cannot identify, though had the recording been done yesterday I would have said hat it was a Chapman Stick. Then I turned on the radio ...
A plane had crashed in downtown Brooklyn ... And after a while it was reported that a plane had crashed on Staten Island, too. There was nothing we could do about it other than resume making out, which we did with great enthusiasm. (And I can think of another word that ends in asm. You can too, yes?) The jet in Brooklyn came down about two blocks from the Paramount Theater. I had stopped going to the Paramount because I had discovered something much more interesting than music -- locking lips with my future wife.
Fast forward to the spring of 1962 ...
American One crashed in Jamaica Bay shortly after takeoff killing everyone aboard when it dove nose first, inverted, into the shallow water. I collect NTSB (and other countries') aviation accident reports and sent the report on this one to an American captain I knew from FlightSim.com who had flown his final duty flight as American One in ... um-m-m-m ... must have been 2007. He had not heard of this accident, which involved a rudder hardover similar to what the 737 fleet had been experiencing.
The day after the crash of American One I had something to do on the eighth floor of the building that housed the Chemistry Department. This floor -- this very chem lab -- had been the site of the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire a half century earlier, a fire in which more than a hundred garment workers, mostly young adult girls, died unnecessarily resulting in a much needed modernization of the fire codes.
Death stalked that floor and those corridors. I needed something from a chemical stockroom but it was closed, unmanned. I went over to the administrative offices on the south side of the eighth floor. I found my faculty advisor, Robert Boyd, co-author of the definitive text of its time on organic chemistry, the book known simply as "Morrison and Boyd", alone in his office looking at slices of mineral specimens through a very expensive binocular microscope.
"Where's Artie?" I asked Doctor Boyd, referring to Artie Becker, a junior like me who worked the stockroom as part of his pre-med scholarship arrangement. "We don't know" said Boyd. "Nobody has heard from him."
Artie surfaced a couple of days later. He had been serving at the Bellevue Hospital morgue for extra premed credits and was on duty when the 707 crashed into Jamaica Bay. He had spent 48 sleepless hours sorting and cataloging body parts because that was all that was left of the crew and the passengers, one of whom was the mother of Linda Eastman, the future wife of Paul McCartney.