Paul walked into the house last night, and said, “Leon called, and he said that everyone’s OK”.
That’s how we first found out that there had been a horrific accident at the Reno Air Races yesterday. A vintage airplane had crashed into the box seat section of the stands; our friends were close enough to “see more than we would have liked” to the accident site.
A group of our friends has been going to these air races every year for the last 20+ years; a few of them left town last weekend to see the Camel Races that are held right before the Air Show – they have always wanted to see them, and they decided this was the year they were going to do that. Another couple met them in Reno later in the week (we were worried that their kids had been at the races; it turns out that the kids – thank goodness! – were safe back here at home with their grandparents).
Paul was bringing dinner home when he got a phone call from our friend, Leon. The situation was still developing – he called Paul about 1/2 hour after it happened. We looked on the Internet, and there wasn’t anything up about it. A few minutes later, the story came up, but details were still pretty sketchy. I was a bit confused, because the byline on the story said that it had happened 2 1/2 hours earlier, but then I realized that the wire story wasn’t making adjustments for the time difference – it happened at about 4:30 in Reno; information was coming in so fast that nobody on the East Coast had made allowances for the time zones yet.
As details came in, it was obvious this was a terrible accident, and that the pilot had done his best to try and avoid hitting the crowd. When we called our friends a while later, it became clear that we had come disturbingly close to losing them; they were really close to where the plane went in (our friend said they were in a bleacher section right next to the box seats), and they had seen the plane coming straight down at the crowd. They thought they were going to be hit, but the plane was able to swerve in the last few seconds; as they described it, if the pilot had only been able to pull the plane a few feet further, he would have missed the crowd completely.
Thankfully, our friends said they didn’t see recall seeing any young kids in their section of the stands yesterday; if this had happened on Saturday or Sunday, the number of casualties would no doubt have been much higher (and possibly included children), as lots of area families bring their kids out to the weekend finale of the Air Races every year.
Our friends saw more than they would have liked to see of the aftermath – they’re all lucky to be alive, and they’re all getting a great big hug the next time we see them (whether they like it or not).
Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of those who were injured or killed yesterday.