That evening, before an audience of victims' family members, Canyon afficionados, and others interested in learning more about the then-worst-ever civil aviation disaster, which led to the creation of the modern air traffic control system and the formation of the Federal Aviation Administration ...
... I announced, in effect, that major combat operations on my book had ended.
Like the guy who publicly declared "Mission Accomplished" in 2003, I meant what I said, in an optimistic kinda way ... and no doubt like him, two years and many complications later, I wish in hindsight that I'd chosen my words more carefully. Or just kept my mouth shut.
Unlike that other guy, I haven't had to contend with an armed insurgency, Sunni-versus-Shia strife, Congressional oversight, an anti-war movement, or running for re-election.
My version's involved driving several hundred miles per week, empty nest syndrome, the recent economic unpleasantness, multiple computer meltdowns, the end of a marriage. Moving several times. Stuff like that.
So, almost seven years into researching and writing VANISHED, almost two years after declaring "Mission Accomplished", coming up now on the 55th anniversary of the crash ...
... the book is, well, basically done. Except that it's in several dozen pieces, scattered between three computers, a dozen or so three-ring binders, and a box full of odds and ends.
All that's left to do is match up all the pieces, polish them up a bit, trim several to fit, possibly toss one or two out entirely ... and voila! All done (except for the little matter of getting it published).
Piece of cake, right?
Absolutely! I just need a wee bit of help from all of you.
What I need more than anything else right now to finish this book are (1) feedback, and (2) someone (or better yet, lots of someones) to hold my feet to the fire.
Help publicizing VANISHED (the book) and Vanished (the blog), and getting the book published, are also most definitely welcome.
Some of you are family members and friends of mine. Some of you are family members and friends of people who died in the crash, or who were involved in the subsequent rescue / recovery / investigation efforts. Some of you are librarians, historians, and journalists who've helped me with my crash-related research. Some of you are writers, publishers, pilots, ex-TWA and -United employees, archaeologists, river guides, and Canyon people who've helped me in numerous ways. Some of you remember the crash, and were deeply affected by it even though you didn't know any of the victims. Some of you have been fascinated by the crash for years, even though you weren't even born when it happened. Some of you may have never even heard about the crash before today; you just happened to wander in. Many of you fit into more than one of these categories.
Whoever you are, however you got here, thanks for stopping by!
For those of you who've helped me research and write VANISHED (or who are about to), thank you so much!
For those of you who've been waiting years for VANISHED to be finished -- or even just for me to return your email -- I'm really and truly sorry, folks. 'Gonna try to make it up to you, starting right now.
So here's the plan:
On a regular basis, starting tomorrow, I'm gonna post bits and pieces of the book on this blog. Please feel free to offer fact-checking, spell-checking, grammar-checking, opinions as to readability and appropriateness, and any other forms of constructive criticism you'd like to contribute. If you've got crash-related information, photographs, etc., that you think might belong in the book, please let me know!
Most definitely feel free to bug the heck out of me if in your considered opinion I'm taking too long between postings -- just please remember that my day job does require my presence for 48 hours at a time once every six days, and that I may even occasionally need to do personal-life stuff.
The stories that make up VANISHED still fascinate me. I feel very strongly that they need to be told, as soon as possible, before they fade from living memory into history or are lost altogether. But many of them are sad stories, or disturbing in other ways, and I can only focus on them for so long at a time without becoming overwhelmed. So in between posting bits and pieces of VANISHED, I'll also be treating you to other bits and pieces of my life as a dad, a son, a brother, a friend, a flight paramedic, a writer of stories other than VANISHED, an extremely amateur photographer, and a recovering attorney.
Because we're such a mixed bunch, and because we'll be dealing with so many sensitive topics, I'm going to pre-screen comments, and reserve the right not to post any I don't feel are appropriate. Besides posting comments here, you can also tweet / follow me on Twitter (@vanishedwest) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). If enough of you feel strongly that it would be helpful, I'll probably even create a Vanished FaceBook page at some point.
Okay, that's it for tonight. Bright and early tomorrow morning I'll start dusting off those bits and pieces and getting them ready to share with you. I'll probably start with some pictures, the outline of the book, and a few questions about what you all think I should include, and what I should leave out. I'll try and get at least some of that up before I go to work Sunday morning.
I'll also be going through all my various email accounts, lecture sign-in sheets, and so forth, trying to make sure that everyone I've ever met with an interest in VANISHED gets invited to Vanished. That'll take quite awhile. In the meantime, please feel free to spread the word yourselves. Tell anyone you think might be interested that they're welcome to stop by, see what they think, and put in their two cents' worth.
Good night, everybody. See y'all tomorrow.
A Parting Thought: