Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Frozen Moment

You're staring at a frozen moment of the life of a man named Alan Magee. He's wounded. He's unconscious. He's in the middle of a free fall two miles above the coast of France.

Thirty seconds before this moment, Mr. Magee bailed out of a B-17 flying alongside the Memphis Belle. Injured when a German flak shell exploded in his ball turret, the machine-gun-equipped spherical sardine can hanging from the plane's belly, Mr. Magee miraculously wriggled up to the flight deck only to find his parachute destroyed. When a second round of flak sent the plane spinning out of control, Mr. Magee, having neither a parachute nor options, jumped out of the aircraft and whispered a prayer. At an altitude of 22,000 feet in freezing, oxygen-depleted air, his fall began.

At this point, you may be guessing that Mr. Magee will die. If so, you have guessed correctly. He will die. After living a long and productive life, he will die from a stroke and kidney failure, in Texas, in over sixty years, at the age of 84.

Thirty seconds after this moment, Mr. Magee's fall will come to an end. The number of people surviving falls from thousands of feet can be counted on one hand, but Mr. Magee will be one of them. The key to survival is having something to break one's fall. Given that Mr. Magee will fall into the city of Saint Nazaire, the chances of landing in a suitable place seem astronomical. In thirty seconds, Mr. Magee will crash through the skylight of the Saint Nazaire train station. He'll be battered up, with 28 shrapnel wounds, some serious lacerations and a broken leg and ankle, but he'll recover, spend a couple of years as a P.O.W. and return to America.

true story


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