On December 8, 2013, people will pause and reflect on a 1963 tragedy that sadly affected so many individuals when Flight 214 crashed at the edge of Elkton. On that horrific night 81 people on the big Pan American World Airways jet perished, first responders rushed to try to help, and the larger community mobilized, supporting the massive recovery operation for Maryland’s worst aviation disaster.
It was a time of shock and sadness as, in an instant, families were shattered and lives were altered in an untold number of ways that Sunday evening. In the Elkton and Newark areas lots of residents peering out at the unusual thunderstorm watched with horror as lightning struck the low-flying aircraft, causing it to explode in mid-flight. In homes across the county, emergency radios crackled urgently to life, breaking the Sunday evening silence, with the most urgent of alerts. Firefighters, police officers, military personnel and rescue workers rushing toward a cornfield to try to help confronted an unsettling scene.
On Dec 8, 2013, the public is invited to gather for an occasion of remembrance in an event sponsored by the Historical Society of Cecil County and the Singerly Fire Company. The main program takes place at 2:00 p.m. at the fire station on Newark Avenue in Elkton. This is something that will stay with friends and families of victims forever and is seared into the collective memory of the community. So we are taking time to pause, reflect, and remember those who lost their lives and those who answered the call to help, according to Don Hicks and Paula Newton, the presidents of the two sponsoring groups.
“In a split-second the lives of emergency workers changed that night as they rushed toward the unnerving accident, a disaster of unprecedented size and scope for a rural volunteer fire department in the early 1960s. But working the front line of the grim crash scene, they did what they had to. And the memories of those days never faded for a generation of young firefighters,” President Hicks of the fire company noted. “In addition, residents in the area will never forget where they were or what they were doing when Maryland’s largest aviation disaster occurred,” the Historical Society’s Newton added. “It was one of those defining moments in the community’s history and as Cecil’s heritage keepers we will observe this passage and honor the memories by recording the events of that sad day.”
As the two groups mark passage of decades by pausing and reflecting during a public program, the hosts have one additional objective, the creation of a Remembrance Archive that chronicles memories of the accident. To record whatever personal and professional stories people wants to share the sponsors are opening up the “Flight 214 Listening Station” on Saturday, Dec. 7th, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. During half-hour appointments, people are invited to privately share firsthand accounts of the tragedy.
Oral historians will be at recording booths, listening, asking a few questions, and recording the conversation, but mostly listening. These stories — whatever individuals want to share — will be added to a permanent collection. The recordings will help assure that generational memory of the event and its impact on families, public safety agencies, the public and the community doesn’t disappear as time moves on.
Those wishing to document their own experience may do so at the recording stations. For an appointment email email@example.com. In addition, the fire company is compiling a list of its first responders and through the fire company museum is sitting with that generation of emergency workers to capture their experiences.