ON THE 17TH anniversay of the world's worst airshow disaster, I have a knot in my stomach as I recall the evil smell of burning flesh that penetrated the stunned silence wrapped around my ice cream stand 17 years ago during Ramstein Flugtag 1988.
Among the 70 who died was a young German girl whose last taste was a lick of American chocolate ice cream that I served her. I no longer eat American chocolate ice cream cones because of that searing memory.
That horrific day sparked a chain of events that would lead to the USAF dropping all acrobatics from the agenda of future Open House events in Ramstein, Germany. As an airlift control center duty officer, I arranged for several air evacuation flights during the early part of September 1988. One of those flights almost took Roland Fuchs, a German, to the States for extended care because the excellent dental care of his teeth made him look American to the hospital staff. Roland has Skyped me several times concerning the events of the day and although I promised to write more about it, I haven't.
It's a story of tragedy, romance, rock-and-roll, espionage, and deep despair. The disaster of Flugtag 1988 ultimately changed my life dramatically, evolving to the point where I've effectively abandoned my affection with America and emigrated to Ireland, my ancestral homeland.
Gotta write that story. Doing that would give me closure on a very trying chapter of my life.