Sunday, June 23, 2013

Revisiting the Explosion of TWA 800.

I don’t usually blab conspiracy theories; it’s just that I’m a little shocked this didn’t make the news more.

Not a single reporter on the news talk radio station I listen to even mentioned this in passing. While talk of celebrity deaths filled the airwaves, the possibility that the deaths of 230 people was caused by something other than a manufacturing defect was largely ignored. In fact, out of all the local news sources I follow on Twitter, only one even tweeted a link. From what I understand, Fox News was the only cable news channel to give this more than a quick mention.

 I know this incident is largely forgotten, buried under the dust of 9-11 and more recent tragedies. However, in my mind, this may have been the first overt terrorist attack (I can’t say on American soil, though I want to, it was a plane after all) in my lifetime. I was a morose teenager, into photography and broadcasting and dark rock music. It was that day that I finally pierced my own nose. Having returned from a dentist appointment and still numb on one side, it was an opportunity too perfect to miss. I jammed a safety pin through my skin and then discovered I didn’t have anything suitable to put in the hole. Returning to a friend’s house after running out to buy a nose ring, we were approached by friend’s brother excitedly, in a panicky voice, telling us there had been a terrorist attack.

 And in those first weeks, that was what everyone believed it was. Planes don’t just explode and fall from the sky. Talk about RPG’s, bombs, accidental friendly fire from a military exercise pervaded the news reports. It was inconceivable that this wasn’t a terrorist attack. I leaned toward the idea of a botched hijacking attempt.

 The final decision of the NTSB was different: an accident caused by faulty wiring on the Boeing-built 747’s center fuel tank caused fumes to ignite, blowing 230 people to the afterlife. I recall that Boeing had to pay a large settlement for their supposed culpability in the accident. Soon, TWA was out of business.

 Many people weren’t willing to believe that the center fuel tank’s purported defect could have caused the explosion. My grandfather didn’t buy it and he was a retired technical writer for Boeing. Then the books started showing up on shelves, conspiracy theories from a government cover-up to prevent the American public from panicking and implicating Osama Bin Laden to accusations that the Navy exercise that had been taking place near the crash site had lost control of a test missile. Either way, I wasn’t satisfied with any of the explanations.

 Now the news is that the NTSB wants to reopen the case and take a better look at what they claim is new (to them) evidence that suggests it may have been an errant missile from the military training exercise nearby. 17 years later.

 All I can say is that I’d really like to have a final conclusion to this one. The TWA 800 explosion is one of the reasons I don’t fly. Even knowing that their fate was instantaneous, the idea of falling from the sky and having however much time to sit in fear before smashing into the ground… that’s more than I can handle. Seriously panic attack worthy.

 Though I should admit that I have flown. Right after 9-11, in fact. Loaded on Benadryl. Reading a copy of this:

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