Monday, July 17, 2006

Rest In Peace, Bob

Bob and Judy, also a pilot, in happier times.

"I was very bad in sports, so I gave Harry a talent I would really loved to have. Who wouldn't want to fly?" JK Rowling

Just when you think things can't get worse ... Bam.

Friday we got back from a trip to Israel. My first act before catching up on sleep was to assure American friends and family members all is well with us and our family in Israel.

Things are grim in the Middle East and I was all set to add my two cents to the mix here today.

But then the phone rang Sunday night. At first, I didn't recognize the voice. Or understand words I could barely hear through the caller's tears. With bombs bursting all over Israel, I thought, oh no, something terrible has happened.

I was right. But the call wasn't from Israel. Disaster had struck our family right here at home.

My sister Judy's husband Bob was killed yesterday in Hillsboro, Oregon when his private plane crashed on takeoff at a local air show.

The plane hit a house and exploded on impact. No one was home. Burning debris set off fires in three adjacent homes. No one was killed, or even injured. Except the pilot.

Coverage of the crash blanketed Northwest TV and newspapers, was on CNN, noted in the Phila Inquirer and even appeared on AOL's Welcome Screen. No matter how many times I watch the videos, read the stories and hear the more specific and private details behind them, it just doesn't seem real.

This will tell you about Bob the smart, hard-working pilot and lawyer Salem-News.Com Jet Pilot Who Died in Hillsboro was One of The Best.

None of the stories can convey what a kind, generous, decent man Bob was. He was quiet, somewhat reserved, had his quirks and idiosyncrasies. Who doesn't. He also had a single-minded dedication to his work, his family and flying. Bob grabbed that life with passionate enthusiasm, especially in the air.

But it's his respect for human life that will be his epitaph, and his legacy. Because experts on site and reviewing the tapes are clear on one thing: Bob could have ejected from the plane and saved himself. He chose instead to attempt an emergency landing that would keep the plane from plowing into an entire neighborhood and killing innocent people.

He succeeded. At the cost of his own life.

A friend and fellow veteran pilot describes the specific maneuvers Bob executed to prevent disaster on the ground in this video: Air show pilot described as a hero. At the end he says, "[Bob's] last thought could well have been, 'I've just killed a family.' And he doesn't deserve that."

No, he doesn't. Bob Guilford ...husband, father, brother, lawyer, pilot, friend... deserves a hero's welcome into the clouds he loved.

More than Rest in Peace, Bob ... Fly in Peace.

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Blogger Matt said...

I loved going to airshows as a kid back in Michigan. The family would pile up and head to one part or another of the state to see all the awesome aircraft.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds were always my favorites. I found some video of a Thunderbird accident with one lucky pilot. You can find a ground shot and cockpit shot here:

12:37 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Johnston said...

Oh Sally, how awful. How awful for Judy. How awful for your whole family. THE whole family. I feel this loss very personally through your always brilliant writing. I keep reading the news articles and bio material and then come back to the immediacy and warmth of your portrayal. Thank you for sharing this at a time when just getting through the next minute can take all the strength you have. I don't know how you do it.

Love allways,
Cindy Lou

6:31 PM  

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