By Dana Stubbs – Special to the Navarro County Gazette
I attended the Braniff International Flight 352 – Texas Historical Marker Dedication and Luncheon at Dawson this past Saturday, April 29. The Lions Club of Dawson hosted a wonderful BBQ luncheon at the Baptist church. Then a shuttle was kindly provided to help with parking at the site of the marker dedication.
The weather was gorgeous, just a little windy.
It was a beautiful ceremony. David Preziosi, Executive Director of Texas Historical Foundation & Braniff Airways Foundation board member, welcomed everyone to the event and gave a little history of the accident. Pastor Wilson Marsh of the First Baptist Church Dawson said the invocation. David Gravelle, Texas Historical Commission, dedicated the marker.
Jan Tucker and Kami Elwood Wallace, who lost family aboard the flight, were next on the program. They presented a plaque from the families of those lost on the flight to the City of Dawson. Pastor Marsh read the passenger names followed by Jean Jordan, President Braniff Clipped B’s Association of retired flight attendants read the names of the crew. Pastor Marsh ended the service with the benediction.
After the ceremony was over, we were shuttled back to our vehicles. As we were walking to our cars, we started up a conversation with the couple parked next to us. The lady had lost her father on the flight. Talking with her was very eye-opening for me. She was very pleased with the anniversary ceremonies. It was easy to see she was given a deep peace she had not felt in fifty years. This 55th year she was very voiceful of the gratitude she has for the first responders and residence of Dawson and Navarro County. It was a delight to meet her.
Hubby and I drove back to the site to take pictures of the marker without being in anyone’s way. There was a very small group of men still there talking it over. I jumped out of the car and as I took my pictures, I overheard the groups conversation and I had to intrude.
The men were talking about the story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram about the incident along with the release of the voice recording of the last minutes of the cockpit crew. I had read the story and heard the recording on Thursday so I just walked over and interrupted them.
Over the years I have read many newspaper articles and even read the transcript of the recording. But, hearing the true real-time voices of the crew and air traffic controller stopped my breath.
I had two immediate thoughts, first, I realized without a doubt, the captain was aware he made a wrong decision.
And, second, as I heard the words from the traffic controller in Ft. Worth telling the captain that no one had tried to go through the storm yet…everyone had gone to the east, I wondered how that affected that man. I felt it had to be hard on him, you know, like watching something happen and being so helpless to prevent a tragedy.
I had no idea that in a few days I would be talking face to face with the writer of the story who also happened to be his son. When I realized who I was talking to I mentioned my concern for his father. He said his dad couldn’t do the job to any further extent so he was transferred to a different department… he just couldn’t direct planes any longer; I get that.
I am very grateful for the time I intruded into the remaining groups conversation. They were in-tuned with the mechanics of the crash which helped me understand a little clearer about the process that caused the crash.
May 3, 1968 was a heartbreaking day for many folks but with time and events like the anniversary and marker dedication healing continues. An additional article detailing the events of the crash can be found here.
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