SACRAMENTO, CA - On the 40th anniversary of one of the worst air show disasters in history, Sacramentans remembered the heroes and the fallen.
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 24th, 1972, a vintage F-86 Sabre Korean War jet crashed into a Farrell’s ice cream parlour upon takeoff, killing 23 people, 12 of them children, and injuring 25 others.
“It was a huge void in the house. Just growing up. Learning stories about them. My parents missed them terribly,” said Jim Keys, who was born after the crash, but lost two older sisters, Sally and Nancy, in the blast and flames that followed the crash.
Dozens of family members of the killed and injured joined firefighters and other first-responders Sunday afternoon to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the crash, that happened on September 24th, 1972.
Robert Fallon was in the first arriving company of firefighters and said he is still haunted by the memory of what he saw that day.
Another thing that sticks in my mind is covering up the deceased people,” Fallon recalled.
He remembers the civilian pilot who survived and whose inexperience was later blamed by investigators for contributing to the crash.
The pilot sitting out here – they pulled him out – he was sitting in the chair,” remembers Fallon.
Sacramento Vice-Mayor Angelique Ashby praised first responders for their work.
“You were heroes on that day and you are heroes today,” Ashby told the gathering at the crash site that now houses Sacramento’s public safety administration offices.
Family members struggled to recover from their losses.
Survivor Kerri McCluskey was 4 years old when she survived the flames. Her twin sister Kristin did not.
Holding back tears, she recalled the bittersweet moment of redemption when her mother gave birth just four months after the accident.
“My mom gave birth to my sister Cody Dawn, and on January 14th, on my birthday and Kristi’s too, my baby sister came home from the hospital,” McCluskey told the gathering of about 200.
Ashby reminded the gathering that the crash prompted changed to zoning law around airports nationwide. And she asked that the tragedy not be forgotten.
“That we continue to tell the story and that we continue to strive to do better when we find areas that we can improve,” Ashby said.
McCluskey worked tirelessly to have a memorial put on the crash site, where the City of Sacramento now has its public safety offices.
Her daughter Kristin, drew a picture of angels when she was 4 years old that was used as a part of the memorial.
“I wanted to color it and and I remember her telling me that you wouldn’t be able to see the color. It was pretty special that she let those be on there because I feel like I helped out.,” Kristin said.
The memorial includes a rock fountain that contains the names of all 23 victims of the crash carved into the front.
During the memorial, all 23 names of the victim were read aloud.