Twenty years ago . . .
I had the day off today (extended vacation time) and no had plans whatsoever. When that happens, and it happens quite often, I’m most likely to do one of two things: work in my garden and/or go biking. Often both work out.
Anyhow, I’ve added a new ‘plot’ near the alleyway fence and wanted to find some rocks for making a border. I have a favorite ‘rock-hunting place and decided to go hunting. It was hot and humid again this morning so I wanted to get my chores out of the way early. I took the pickup to a gravel pit east of Ranger Chevrolet on the beltline to do my exploration. Although I knew that beyond the pit the road went up into the old mine dumps, I’d never driven up there. I also knew that there was an airplane accident memorial somewhere up the road. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never been up to the memorial site, despite the fact that I knew two of the passengers that were killed there.
The road was rather well marked and wound through some interesting country–in many places the vistas were quite awesome and I got out of my truck more than a couple of times to wander around. It was quite obvious that the road did not get much traffic and at times it resembled an old logging road.
Being intrigued by our area’s history, wandering in old abandoned and overgrown mining locations puts me a ‘mood’– I’m always reminded of those miners who labored in the many gaping pits from that bygone era. Probable the historian gene in me is piqued by the thoughts of the danger. Anyhow, I found the memorial without difficulty. A metal cross about eight feet tall has been erected there. On the cross are the names of the eighteen people who were killed when the Northwest Airlink Flight 5791 crashed into the side of a mine dump on its decent toward the Hibbing airport. At the base of the cross were several chunks of iron ore and a weathered artificial flower that someone had left long ago. How soon we forget. It has already been twenty years since that historic tragedy.
I remember that December night quite well. It was unseasonably warm and foggy; snow was melting on my driveway. I remember that two of my friends were among the first responders to locate the crash–one was a doctor and the other a newsman. The airplane was demolished. It was December 1, 1993. The time was 7:58 PM.
As I stood on the flat top of the dump, I tried to imagine exactly where the plane might have crashed. The walls of the dump are quite steep there. It was an eerie feeling for sure. While standing at the site I wondered . . . twenty years ago a cross was considered to be an appropriate ‘memorial’ marker. I wonder if the government would consider such a ‘Christian’ display appropriate (or politically correct) in our present times. I was disturbed by that thought. I still am.
Oh, I did find some nice rocks and some chunks of iron ore as well. Whenever I see them I will be reminded of that night twenty years ago. And I’ll say a prayer. God bless.