Italian Planes Attempting To Pull Off An Aerial Formation At The Air Show Disaster, 1988

I’ve already written about how I nearly lost my life at the USAF Ramstein air show disaster near Kaiserslautern, West Germany in 1988.

How some Italian planes attempting to pull off an aerial formation collided in mid-air.

How the fireball and debris their collision created killed about a hundred people.

Three hours later, my group of friends was still missing one of its members, this giant dude we called Hoss. Thankfully, he turned up later. But the damage wasn’t quite done yet.

I began suffering horrible guilt about having run away when I saw the plane’s fuselage tumbling toward us. I had left my wife and my friends and I wasn’t okay with that. Not at all.

But then.

The media started looking for an anonymous hero whom someone had photographed running into the flames to save a baby. Three weeks later, they found him.

The man in question turned out to be an American soldier who denied being a hero. Weeping, he looked at the cameras and told everyone that the baby he’d gone back to save was his own child.

He admitted to having left his baby in its car seat when the planes exploded. This changed the whole conversation the media was having about the air show disaster and other events.

I was then at my lowest level psychologically speaking. Through counseling I was able to process that people don’t always do what you see in the movies.

It’s not natural to throw yourself down on a hand grenade yelling for everyone else to get away. That makes for good films but it’s not always true to life.

No, the natural reaction, I was told, was to do exactly what I’d done. Self-preservation. After which point, once the situation has stabilized, of course you go back and try to help whoever you can.

The same way we’d all looked for Hoss.

It was one of those moments where I had to learn to go easy on myself. To let go of my guilt and forgive myself. And not just for my own benefit but for the benefit of everyone I cared about who’d been there.

A very important life lesson.

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