In the spring of 1947, when I was twelve years old, a passenger plane crashed near Narragansett Bay. It was a small craft, newly built, operated by a nascent aviation outfit called Boston Airways. Color photographs show that the nose and tail of the plane were painted the yellow of a girl’s Easter dress. Because of this, in the hangars where it was stored, its name was Bunny, or Chickadee; both names are listed in the official testimony. The intended flight path that afternoon had the plane headed first to New York and then to Miami, and then, if weather permitted, back along the edge of the Atlantic to land in Baltimore.
Lately I’ve begun to collect artifacts from the crash: a shard of the captain’s seat belt; the sleek, burnished blade of a cracked propeller; the top flap of a carton of Fatima cigarettes, remarkably well preserved, a greasy, spectral fingerprint smeared across the red crescent moon of the logo. Filed away on a computer, I have recordings of the few radio transmissions that exist. The pilots are calm before their death. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve listened to them dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Everything in my story depends in some way on this crash.
–by Stuart Nadler