In the clutter of our everyday lives people and events are often forgotten. As we were reading R.G. Yoho’s account of today Flight 90 was remembered.
A little history: Air Florida Flight 90 was a U.S. domestic passenger flight that originated at Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia, and was scheduled to terminate at Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a stopover at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Florida. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 registered as N62AF, previously registered with United Airlines as N9050U, crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River.
by R. G. Yoho
In 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 was taking off from a Washington D.C. airport when it crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. Most of the passengers died on impact, but there were only a handful of survivors, who were subjected to the icy, frigid waters.
As news people filmed and spectators watched from the bridge, and just when it appeared there would be no rescue for the survivors, a helicopter arrived on the scene. As the helicopter dropped a life ring to the survivors, to hoist them out of the water, a 46-year-old federal bank examiner, Arland Williams, repeatedly passed his life line to someone else.
After lifting another woman from the frigid Potomac, the helicopter finally returned for Williams, the former military graduate of the Citadel. However, Williams had already succumbed to hypothermia, slipped beneath the water, and drowned.
Williams was not the only hero on that day. The brave helicopter pilot and a paramedic nearly died also, when the added weight of the survivors momentarily pulled the skids of the chopper beneath the surface of the water.
The 14th Street Bridge saw the last moments of an unknown bank examiner’s life, his selfless dedication to saving others, and the man’s final acts of incomparable courage. Today that bridge bears the name of Arland D. Williams, one more man who displayed the courage and characteristics that have come to be known as uniquely American.