April 05, 2005

Difficult

This has been sitting in my inbox for a few weeks now, not out of neglect or indifference, but because these posts are so damned hard to do. Even after all these years.

I wasn't "on the scene", but I was dealing with several wives who's husbands were. I had several airmen (generic term includes women too) who worked for me, there that day doing crowd and traffic control.

Gordon Tatro, who has generously shared his reconstruction and photographs of the aftermath, passes along this link to a new website posted by Roland Fuchs, a German gentleman who lost his wife and 5 year old daughter at the Ramstein Flugtag that day. Included on the site are photos of his family, the day itself, the actual crashes, and the monument and memorial that have since been erected to honor those who died. This photograph shows clearly the list of names of the Flugtag casualties, and underscores just how many young victims there were.

I still receive email and comments about Flugtag, and I'd like to thank Gordon, Roland and the many others who've shared their experiences from that day. May everyone find peace.

Posted by: Ted at 04:19 PM | category: Flugtag '88
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1 I remember seeing this on the news that evening and telling my freinds about that night.Nobody believed me.No-one had ever heard of anything like that.Especially with all of those casualties,plus being caught on tape.
That image is permenatly burned in my head.

Posted by: Russ at April 05, 2005 05:53 PM (ObxzR)

2 I followed your links just to be reminded. I probably haven't thought about that day since shortly after it happened.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at April 06, 2005 11:16 PM (FX1pt)

3 I was the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Commander of the 377th Combat Support Wing and worked for Colonel Bill Eckert and the Vice Commander Cash Harris. I watched the crash from the VIP area on the roof of the control tower building. I had watched the practice routine the previous day, and the solo pilot had buzzed the tower and a very low altitude and probably within 100 feet of the tower laterally, so I was kind of interested in seeing what he would do this time. I also had the chance to meet the team the previous evening at a reception for the participants.

You could see during the pierced heart stunt, the solo pilot seemed to be coming in hot, and in a split second there was a fireball, and the plane tumbled into the crowd. In hindsight, some of the crowd were spared because of the mound of gravel behind the impact area which we used for rapid runway battle damage repair was loaded with people. Had the truck not been there, a whole lot more would have been killed or injured. I immediately ran to the control tower and told the German announcer to ask the people to remain calm and clear the impact area using the MAC ramp which was north (I believe) of the impact site. I then ran the 200 or so yards down to the impact site. That took all of six or seven minutes. As I ran, I recall one particular man who's head was swollen perhaps a third larger than normal, it was burning, he was stagering away from the smoke and flames.

MSgt. Tatro's photo's bring back a lot of negative memories. I expect he took them the morning after. There was a young child I found under the red truck horribly burned. Colonel Cash Harris, I and a couple of other airmen had to try and move it trying to get to the kid. The tires were burned and we tried to roll it on the wheels. I had to jump in and move the shifter to get it out of gear. The child was still barely breathing. There was no way he would survive.

A lot of things happend that day. I found part of one pilot, at least a third of him, and also his pelvis. My EOD crew combed the crash site weckage for the ejection seats, and parts thereof, that had to be safed (live charges still in the seats). We had Bob Kalcevic running around worried that people might see the bodies and ordered up a 40 foot flatbed to load them on before we had a chance to map out the scene and try and match body parts to the bodies they belonged to.

It was a long, long night, and Colonel Bill Eckert at the onsite CP was absolutely awesome. He kept everyone together in the middle of a disaster. What was a nigtmare day turned into perhaps six weeks agony for our Wing and especially its people. The smell at the temporary morgue at the base gym, the Doc's trying to identify who they have when you don't know who was there in the first place? Then there was MSgt. Sharon Lucy at the base theater, trying to contact every person stationed at Ramstein who was not accounted for, despite the fact that her new convertable was damaged at the crash site and couldn't be moved for weeks because of the investigation. Our cops, who chalked tires to see if the vehicles they belonged to had moved, and then running the plates to see if the owner was a victim. To this day, I am so proud of every one of them.

Sometime after the incident, one of my EOD guys, Danny Churillo took a shotgun out of the safe at the EOD shop, and shot himself. I believe he was a victim of Flugtag, and that really haunts me.

There is so much more that most people don't know. I sat on the fundraising committee for the Community that raised thousands of dollars for the relief of the families of the victims and I even put together the Ramstein Bon Jovi Flugtag concert. Our hearts went out to each and every victim of Flugtag. That's part of the story too.

I retired from active duty a while back, but now teach high school Air Force JROTC and wear the uniform every day. I have a uniform jacket with blood stains on my old Chief stripes from 28 August, 1988. I still look at that jacket, all the time.

Posted by: Cmd. CMSgt. Thom Lustik at May 19, 2005 07:00 PM (ywZa8)

4 I was a TSgt, Telephone Maintenance, at Ramstein. The communications for Flugtag were extensive, so I had volunteered to clean up trash following the show, figuring that would be easier than doing all the telephone work I'd done for the previous Flutag. I was driving from my home in Obermohr when I first saw the smoke. Arriving on the scene, I didn't pick up any trash. All the survivors had been removed, and we began the task of picking up bodies and body parts. As I remember it, the concertina wire had done the most gruesome damage. We weren't sure what parts went with what bodies, and surely mixed some of them up. We were given rubber gloves for our own protection, but they shredded so quickly, that I stopped putting on new ones. Some bodies were too hot to handle, so we used ice and water from picnic coolers to pour over them. I counted about 30 bodies that I handled personally, and then began picking up pieces. I think I went into shock. When the remaining pieces became so small that I wasn't sure if they were body parts or not, I decided I'd done enough. In a daze, I walked to the NCO Club and got sick. Then I went to the bar, and found some friends. I remember while there, Security Police came and confiscated a bunch of booze. It was needed by the medics. It was a day I shall never forget. Tommy Johnson

Posted by: Tommy Johnson at May 20, 2005 05:17 AM (MIP1f)

5 I TOO REMEMBER THAT DAY AND WILL FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. MY LAST NAME WAS MCCANCH AT THAT TIME AND ME, MY EX-HUSBAND(WHO WAS ACTIVE DUTY EOD) AND OUR 2-YEAR OLD SON(JJ) HAD A FRONT ROW SEAT FOR THIS HORRIFIC EVENT. I STILL CANNOT WATCH A VIDEO ON THIS. JUST STILL-LIFE PICTURES. ALL I REMEMBER (SINCE WE WERE DIRECTLY BEHIND THE POLICE CAR ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ACCESS ROAD) IS WATCHING THE PLANE COME AT US ON FIRE AND TOTAL AND COMPLETE SILENCE. KNOWING THAT THERE WAS NO WAY WE COULD OUTRUN A FIGHTER, I JUST REACHED DOWN AND BARELY TOUCHED MY SON AND WAS LITERALLY PICKED UP AND THROWN. I HAVE TO SAY I WASN'T SCARED. ACTUALLY I WAS AT PEACE WITH THE FACT THAT MY FAMILY AND I WERE GOING TO DIE. THE LATER THE SURVIVOR GUILT HIT ME WHEN I THOUGHT OF ALL THE YOUNG CHILDREN THAT WERE NEAR ME AND PROBABLY DIED THERE ON THE SPOT OR SHORTLY AFTER. I CAN REMEMBER TWO SMALL CHILDREN THAT WERE TO THE LEFT OF US, THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL AND THEY LOOKED LIKE TWINS, THEY WERE LITTLE CURLY, BLONDS ABOUT 4-5 AND I HAVE YET TO SEE ANY PICTURES WITH THEM IN THEM. I HAVE ASKED REPEATEDLY EVERYONE I CAN IF THEY REMEMBER SEEING THEM AND NOBODY KNOWS. I MUST COMMEND THE BASE FOR BEING AS PREPARED AS THEY COULD HAVE FOR AN EVENT THAT I AM SURE THAT THEY DID NOT ANTICIPATE. AND ALL OF THE REST OF YOU THAT WORKED THROUGH YOUR OWN SHOCK AND TRAUMA TO AID THE REST OF US THAT NEEDED YOU. THANK YOU. CMSGT THOM LUSTIK, I REMEMBER DANNY AND IT RIPPED MY HEART OUT WHEN WE HEARD THE NEWS, I CRIED FOR DAYS. THE THINGS I SAW, SMELLED, AND HEARD THAT DAY WILL NEVER LEAVE ME. BUT MOST OF ALL THE HELP AND THE STRENGTH THAT WAS SHOWN BY EVERYONE THAT CAME TOGETHER AS ONE WILL NEVER LEAVE ME. I AGREE THERE ARE THINGS THAT WILL NEVER BE KNOWN AND NEVER BE FORGOTTEN, BUT I BELEIVE THAT TALKING ABOUT MAKES IT EASIER TO DEAL WITH. IT AMAZES ME HOW I CAN REMEMBER THAT DAY LIKE IT JUST HAPPENED. BUT I GUESS THAT GOD WANTS US TO REMEMBER THIS UNTIL WE FIGURE OUT WHY WE WERE SPARED.

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