Sixty-eight years ago—June 17, 1940—a squadron of B-18 bombers took off from Mitchell Field on Long Island. While gaining altitude, two of the planes collided over a block of homes in the town of Bellerose. They fell from the air spreading metal, glass, and flaming fuel all over the area. Twelve people (11 in the planes and one on the ground) died.
My interest in the event stems from the fact that I could have been the 13th fatality. A 14-month-old infant, I was in a playpen in the backyard of my family's tiny Bellerose home when the planes came down. Aviation debris, a little or a lot depending on who is telling the story, littered our yard except where my playpen was located. How dramatic is that?
Originally, my knowledge of the plane crash was based on my parents' telling of the story, and I heard it often as a boy. There came a time when those re-tellings became so burned into my mind that I became convinced I'd witnessed the collision myself. Even as I write these words ...1