Side Tracking: Mom, the U.S.S. Intrepid, and the Freedom Tower,

      Here’s a REAL side line.  I just found this blog post among my drafts, originally written on April 13, 2012:  a year and a half ago.  I must have left it in draft form and forgotten to actually publish it.   It’s still too important to me to ignore, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to put it back in order.  That’s too bad.  So…  from Joan’s and my not-that-long-ago trip  to New York City,  not to be missed, and completely out of context with my current entries (October 2013), … here it is:  

IMG_0083A couple of side trips in the city on Friday the Thirteenth added to the soul-cleansing I seek out with my city theatre binges.   The two hikes on the High Line certainly qualify in that area.  Add to them the trek down to see the 9/11 memorial.  Since I wasn’t alert enough to order up passes on line ahead of time, we never did get in to see the actual memorial, but we took a picture or two of the 1 World Trade Center in progress, the “Freedom Tower.”  And we had a great conversation with one of the volunteers at the visitor’s center, a man who was evidently in the area on the day of the tragedy, has seen enough in New York for one lifetime, and is at last ready to move down to South Carolina for some long overdue peace and serenity.

The Freedom Tower soars!

The Freedom Tower soars!

I’m not one for mixing in large crowds, and right now, New York is as jammed with more tourists than I’ve ever seen here.  On the street, English is pretty much a second language. We also found ourselves drawn to the U.S.S. Intrepid, the Vietnam era aircraft carrier now permanently anchored in New York harbor, and operated by the City of New York as the Intrepid Air Sea & Space Museum.  Naturally, I also forgot to procure tickets in advance for this site, and we waited in line for over an hour.  I may not have a military bone in my body, but I am enormously grateful to the men and women who do.  The Intrepid is an impressive tribute to everyone who served on her, and by extension to all the men and women of the American armed forces.  What’s more, it’s a whopping good museum with some fascinating exhibits and an exciting display of aircraft of all types.  Later this month, they expect to receive the space shuttle Endeavor to add to their permanent display.

But there was a much more personal reason for this particular visit.  During the 1930’s, my mother had an early career as a pioneer aviatrix, marking airports, performing stunt flying and competing in air races, etc.  For a few brief days in the early years of WWII, she was slated to be an assistant commander in the WASPs, (Women’s Air Service Pilots), were it not for the insistent needs of her three-year-old son.  When she died in 1977, I had donated all of her air trophies to the International Women’s Air & Space Museum out in Cleveland, Ohio.  And when the IWASM put together a traveling exhibit to be called “Women Flyers in World War II,”  for loan to the U.S.S. Intrepid, one of those trophies was included in the exhibit.  And sure enough, there it was, tucked into a corner of Hangar 2, in a glass case along side a picture of Mom in her air racer that I don’t remember ever having seen.  By the way, according to the IWASM, women’s trophies were usually in the form of a basket or a flower vase instead of the cups more commonly  awarded to the men — presumably a tip of the hat to the women’s more refined sensibilities … naturally!   And incidentally, that 1934 Washington air race (5 years before I came along) included not only speed but aerial acrobatics and “bombing runs.”


Trophy from Women Pilots Air Meet, Washington, DC, 1934.   Helen MacCloskey Collection of the International Women’s Air & Space Museum

Trophy from Women Pilots Air Meet, Washington, DC, 1934.
Helen MacCloskey
Collection of the International Women’s Air & Space Museum

Helen MacCloskey


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1 Response to Side Tracking: Mom, the U.S.S. Intrepid, and the Freedom Tower,

  1. Peter says:

    Hey Bill,
    I didn’t realize your mother was that distinguished a flyer. Wow! Makes we want to go back to the Intrepid.

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