Ghosts of Flight 191

I remember the crash because on Friday afternoons/evenings I would head to my Mom’s home in Dolton. It was the Friday before Memorial Day in 1979. I was single, living in Waukegan and currently teaching at Warren Township HS. I was running late getting on the road and Tri State I-94 was backed up for miles so I ended up taking Route 41. I heard it on the radio and will never forget the picture in the news. The crash had killed all 258 passengers and 13 crew members on board; two more people on the ground. It was the worst aviation accident in U.S. history and remains so today.

It was a beautiful day when Flight 191 was scheduled to leave O Hare and land in Los Angeles with many literary figures on the DC 10. The plane was taking off and climbing from the runway when suddenly lost an engine, crashed in a field off of Touhy Avenue between DesPlaines and Elk Grove Village, bursting into a massive fireball. After weeks of investigation, they found there was a crack in the engines pylon due to the fact that American Airlines had removed the engine weeks before during maintenance procedures with a forklift as a single unit without approval of McDonnell Douglas, who always specified a different method. The fracture in the plane went unnoticed and kept getting worse and worse.

Months after the crash, residents near the area kept seeing bobbing lights like orbs over the field. Their was a mobile home park right near the crash site. According to American Haunting, residents claimed to hear knocking on windows and doors with nobody there. Dogs would bark constantly at the field and some would open their door to find a worried figure to say he had to get his luggage or make a connection. Another man was walking his dog and ran into a figure who smelled of gasoline looking for a phone.

On May 25, 2019, the 40th Anniversary Remembrance was held at the Memorial Wall and Garden. Actually, the wall is about two feet with bricks of the names of those who had died in the crash.  According to Chicago Magazine, it had taken more than 30 years for someone to come up with the idea, then two years of lobbying by an assistant principal and students in the 2010 sixth-grade class at Decatur Classical School in West Rogers Park to get the memorial approved. The assistant principal’s parents had been on the flight.