Prologue: Caged

(February 19, 1969)


I was caged.

Then, I was driven.

Driven to Cherokee.

A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.

Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.

Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak:

Cloudy and cold, condensation and frost riming the windows, piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.

I, cargo.

Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.

Shifting, crossing my legs…

Please, can we stop?

Hot and steamy inside.

Shivering, my teeth rattling.

Please…I have to go!

Hear something, George?

Naw, nothin’ important.


Cargo has no voice.

Madness has no voice.

Listen, crazy girl…

Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…

“I’m crazy, crazy…”

Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…

I, crazy?

* * * * *

From I, Driven: a memoir of involuntary commitment ("Prologue")

© 2008-2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel

Excerpt may not be used or copied without author’s permission.


Additional excerpts, out takes, and new essays


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Showing posts with label Flight 266. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flight 266. Show all posts

Friday, September 5, 2008

Excerpt--January 16, 1969: "...While I Kiss the Sky"


(United Airlines, Flight #266, on approach to Denver, Colorado)

Purple haze all in my brain

Lately things just don’t seem the same

Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky

–Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze"




I hate flying, especially when I’m going somewhere I don’t want to be. Last summer, it wasn’t so bad flying to California–somehow, the prospect of crashing to earth and becoming part of a smoldering heap doesn’t seem so likely when you’re going somewhere fun.

But I’m headed for Sioux City, in the dead of winter, my grandfather snoring next to me, my grandmother lying in wait for me at the Sioux City airport.

I can’t wait.

We’re approaching Denver–I hate landings the most–then we get to do it all over again where we’ll catch our connecting flight to Sioux City.

A nighttime flight.

Just get this bucket of bolts safely on the ground!

We’re flying in a figure 8, stacked somewhere over Denver, my stomach lurching, in sync with the winding and curving of the plane.

Why did I agree to this trip, anyway? I’m 18, for God’s sake, a woman now.

Though being 18 floats you in a no-man’s land of not-quite-adulthood, 18 to 20, a purgatory of conditional freedom: be good, get married, or fight in Vietnam, don’t make waves...Don’t drop acid and live with your drug-dealing boyfriend. Exile to Sioux City: my sentence for not conforming to Establishment rules. I was so na├»ve back in October, when I turned 18.

Enduring the entire afternoon with my family and their friends didn’t seem so bad: the reward of true adulthood awaiting me, a final shedding of parental rules.


Excerpt copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel.

Text may not be reposted or republished without permission.



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Out Take: United Airlines Flight #266


Flight Transcript


First Officer: Ah, we've had a fire warning on Number One engine we shut down. We'd like to come back.

LOS ANGELES DEPARTURE CONTROL: United 266, roger. What is your present altitude?



SECOND OFFICER: We're gonna get screwed up. I don't know [what's going on]

FIRST OFFICER: Keep it going up, Arnie. You're a thousand feet...pull it up...


Breaking News:

18 January 1969; United Airlines 727, Flight #266; Los Angeles, CA: The aircraft crashed into Santa Monica Bay shortly after a night takeoff in poor weather. The crew reported an engine one fire warning, shut down the engine, and initiated an air turn back before crashing into the water at high speed and an unusual attitude. Electrical failure was suspected. All six crew members and 32 passengers were killed.
This is an important fact; two days earlier, on January 16, my grandfather and I had flown this very flight.

I had begged my grandfather for two extra days in Hollywood, to tie up some loose ends.

"No," he said. "You've had enough time."


I Believe in Destiny

Enigma's "Return to Innocence" (1984)


More details about the crash of United Flight 266

United Airlines Flight 266 was a scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, to General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, via Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado, with 38 on board. On January 18, 1969, at approximately 18:21 PST it crashed into Santa Monica Bay, Pacific Ocean, approximately 11.5 miles west of Los Angeles International Airport four minutes after takeoff.

Two minutes into its flight, the pilots reported a fire warning in the No. 1 engine and shut it down. The aircraft had departed LAX with one of its three generators inoperable, and shutting down the suspect engine took a second generator offline. The remaining generator became overloaded and shut down, resulting in the loss of all electrical power.

The pilots began flying in total darkness with less than 3 miles visibility due to fog and rain, with no lights or instruments, and consequently lost complete control of the aircraft due to disorientation and crashed killing all 38.

At the time, a battery powered back-up source for instruments was not required on commercial aircraft. The accident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to require all transport category aircraft to have new backup instrumentation installed, and powered by a source independent of the generators.



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