“Piecing Together What History Has Broken to Bits”: Air Flight Florida 90 and the PATCO Disaster

From American Disasters, Edited by Steven Biel:

History, wrote the German-Jewish critic Walter Benjamin in 1940 is “one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage.” Inspired by Benjamin’s hope of jolting history out of its catastrophic standstill, Ralph James Savarese seeks the uptopian possibilities in the 1982 Air Florida crash in Washington, D.C.—in the heroism of the mysterious “man in the water” who came to the rescue of his fellow passengers and the convict-con artist who posed as a priest to comfort the bereaved families of the victims. Defying the formal conventions of traditional history and criticism, Savarese creates a “remembrance” of the disaster that is imagistic and analytical. His essay juxtaposes scenes of the crash with descriptions of Ronal Reagan’s ruthless suppression of the air traffic controllers’ strike a few months earlier, discussions of the history of aviation and illuminating refererences to Sigmund Freud, Herman Mellville, Karl Marx, Walker Percy, and others who have ruminated on trauma and rescue.

Read “Piecing Together What History Has Broken to Bits” (PDF)