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         July, 2021









Probably the most obvious place to begin this letter is to state what most of us recognize: the 1956 midair collision happened right about now in that year. June 30, 2021, is the 65th anniversary of that terrible day. It’s a long time ago, and yet I feel it right here, right now. This anniversary is especially significant because now the tragedy is as old as most of us are when we reach our own milestone of retiring. The youngest person on board, Howard John Maag, was only three weeks old when he lost his life, and even he would be retiring now, after a long life of following his aspirations. And most of the adults aboard would be deceased by now, having lived out their lives, lives that they were cheated out of by chance or, as I believe, by fate. I believe that fate is an actual force, a will, not just a word that references the outcome of some particular event.


So here we are at the 65th anniversary, and Barbara and I apologize for not planning a major, actual get-together to commemorate it. The pandemic has made, and continues to make, any such plans uncomfortably questionable, even if we are nearing the end of the critical phase. We are truly sorry, and we promise that we and Tom Sulpizio will do our best to organize such a “convention” next year, unless of course the current trend toward world recovery turns itself around.


Whether 65 years or 66, the importance of honoring the victims and honoring our own hearts is identical, and so the potential for a meaningful, reverent gathering is equivalent.  


Having said all this, our vice president, Tom Sulpizio, who lost his father in the accident, intends to be present at Pioneer Cemetery in Grand Canyon Village on June 30th, and to commemorate the tremendous loss in his own personal way, welcoming all who would like to join him. Tom’s dedication is plain to see ~ he really means it when he says that this is everlastingly important. I feel the same extent of dedication from my own perspective, having lost my uncle. Barbara is surprisingly invested for someone who did not lose a loved one in the accident. Unfortunately, she and I will be unable to meet with you and Tom at the United memorial on June 30th, because of several serious situations that have developed recently in our lives.


Tom will be there at 10:00 a.m., MST, and may say a few words, depending upon how many people attend. He will also be driving to Desert View overlook, where he plans to be present shortly before 11:30 a.m., MST, to witness the place out over the canyon where the accident happened, at the time it happened. 


Also on June 30th, Brian Blue, the treasurer of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, will be presenting a floral display at the gravesite in Flagstaff Citizens’ Cemetery, in honor of those who lost their lives on the TWA flight. He is planning on doing this at 9:00 a.m., MST.


The Grand Canyon Historical Society has graciously donated the floral arrangements for both gravesites. While we’re at it with credits, the photo at the top of the page was taken on or about Memorial Day this year by Kim Besom, and the flowers and sign were donated and set up by Ray Cook, the son of L. David Cook, Jr., who was a passenger on the United plane, along with my uncle and Tom’s father.


One last item. We recognize that the Zoom meeting that we had on May 16th was not exactly polished ~ it was our first attempt at setting up such a meeting. We had attended Zoom meetings in the past but never organized one. It should be more nearly professional next time. Still, we enjoyed meeting all of you who were “there,” never mind that it turned out to be as much business as fun, despite the invitation for pure friendliness. I could have done a better job moderating so as to keep it informal, and next time I will help keep the meeting more on track if it wanders too far, whatever its primary purpose may be; I’m as new to chairing a group as I am to Zoom!


We hope that you will be able to make it to one or both of the gravesite commemorations on the 30th, and we deeply wish we could be there with you. Until next time…  


Mike Nelson with Barbara Nelson

bn: secretary of Patrons of the 1956 Grand Canyon Midair Collision



PS: Please feel free to forward this to anyone you’d like. Thanks!

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