FOR A LITTLE OVER a decade, I lived for the high-pitched whine of turbine engines and the smell of JP-4 in the morning. That life style was to change dramatically 20 years ago as I walked the line and set up a refrigerated van under the screams of jet aircraft in the overhead traffic pattern at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. I had a new release from Tracy Chapman in my BMW 320is because her mellow take on "Fast Car" seemed just the ticket for my unbridled runs down the A6 between the Saarland and Heilbronn. I lived my work in a strategic command centre, trudging 156 feet underground in a blast-proof stairwell before pressing the keys on a two-foot-thick concrete door and taking my position behind two 30" colour monitors, astide a phone bank comprised of 38 hardened lines (six hotlines to people with potent buttons on their pagers), directly in front of a teletype machine. You didn't get the smell of JP-4 down there, just like you didn't get any sunshine during your 12-hour shift. And you didn't go topside for your time at work because you were the go-to guy when things happened. You were the traffic cop. So it was a special break in my work life that let me walk the line up top exactly 20 years ago, looking the part (see left). I took the time off to attend an Apple Users' Group meeting in Kaiserslautern and to help some friends set up a refrigerated van so we could sell ice cream to bystanders in a crowd estimated to reach more than 100,000 people for a nice day forecast at Flugtag 88. As it turned out, I was setting up just east of Ground Zero for the worst airshow disaster ever recorded in Europe. And as things later unfolded, the screams of the jets overhead would translate into a burning horror on the ground that still cause me sweaty nights when they weave their way into my dreams. My personal therapist during those moments is Tracy Chapman. Her "Fast Car" looped in my blue Air Force truck as I bounced around the tarmac setting up for the show. And "Fast Car" represented serenity among the carnage during the massive clean-up operation that unfolded after 28 August 1988.
NOTE: The photo is from walking the line at an earlier Air Show that I helped organise.
Previously -- "Summertime Ice Cream Memory" on Irish Typepad 23 August 2003 and "No Chocolate. It's Flugtag." on 28 August 2005.
Roland Fuchs -- "Ramsteim 1988: Diese Homepage ist den Opfern der Flugschaukatastrophe vom 28.8.1988 in Ramstein gewidmet bei der mehr als 70 Menschen starben. Hier möchte ich beschreiben wie ich den Tag erlebte und was diese Katastrophe heute noch für mich bedeutet."
Wikipedia -- "Ramstein Air Show Disaster"