Brooklyn Air Crash: 50 Years Later


by Richard Schlesinger, a CBS News correspondent based in New York.

There is always something eerie about going to the scene of a spectacular tragedy...even a half century after the fact.

I was at the scene of a spectacular air crash today in Brooklyn - 50 years to the day after the fact. It was almost at the exact time a United DC-8 came crashing to the ground. There are still scars, both architectural and emotional.

(Scroll down to watch the report.)

The buildings still show the signs...subtle as they are...of what happened that day. There's a line where the brick was where the building was rebuilt after the wing of the plane sheared off the top. Several new buildings stand out among the older ones...they replaced the original structures destroyed by the crash.

But, as always, the human stories are the most compelling.

As we were setting up the camera and light on the corner were the tail of the jet finally came to rest, people started to congregate. One man pulled up and said his father was a police officer on the scene and had saved a piece of a seat belt from the plane. He pulled over and took the seat belt out of his car. Two women approached us and were very interested in the relic. One asked if there was any way to tell which seat the seat belt came from. It turned out her father had died on the plane that day...the other said her father died in the crash too. 

They are both in their 50s now but you could tell in their eyes the pain of losing their fathers was still with them. It was dulled somewhat by a half century. 

But one lady's eyes started to water. I got a lump in my throat when I realized that what looked to most people like another corner in Brooklyn was hallowed ground to these ladies, where what had to be the worst event in their lives was seared into their memories...50 years ago today.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"