On December 16, 2010, The Green-Wood Historic Fund dedicated a granite and bronze monument to the memory of those who had died when two airplanes collided over Staten Island fifty years earlier. For an account of that dedication, click here. It was quite a moving day; children who had lost a parent or loved one 50 years earlier, now grown up, attended the dedication and told us how pleased they were to finally have a memorial to those they had lost. It was a good, but sad, day.
In response to that earlier blog post, I recently received an e-mail from Donna Allendorf Wahlert. Donna was a college student at the time of the crash. Her friend, Theodora (“Dodie”) Tiska, was on United flight 826, and died when it crashed. Now, as Donna’s 50th college reunion approaches, here are her recollections:
The night before “Dodie” caught the disastrous flight, she came into my dorm room, had tea with me, gave me a photo of her and her cat, and we said good-bye. Little did I know that it would be our last. I think that Dodie had some sort of premonition. The night before her flight, she asked a campus priest to hear her confession….she who was bright, sweet, humble, gentle….and funny…and never said a negative word. She was loved by all and now will be remembered by all.
Dodie boarded in Chicago, leaving from Rosary College (now Dominican University) to go home for Christmas break. She was on the United flight 826, headed to New York. Not only was it the “deadliest U.S. commercial aviation disaster,” at that time, but it was the first time that a “black box” had been used to chart an airplane’s course. As it turned out, there was faulty equipment on the United plane, and it was 12 miles off its course. When United 826 collided with TWA266, they were one mile above the earth.
Dodie would have graduated in 1962 and her picture was in that 1962 graduation yearbook as a special memoriam. . . . That picture of Dodie and her cat was quite recent then. She evidently gave that same picture to others because I was not there two years later when they published that yearbook. I had left Rosary College by then to get married. In fact, I left the college the the day after Dodie left for the Christmas break. I never returned; I did not get to grieve with my other classmates. It has always been an unfinished story for me.
Maybe this explains why the Green-Wood story and memorial are so important to me.