Within seconds after the crash, the Greater Hartford Regions Fire, Police and EMS services were being coordinated for a massive, hopefully life saving response. These events are rehearsed for and practiced regularly, in the hopes that the real test will never happen.
Wednesday morning, a little after 10:00AM the tests became reality.
It all happened very quickly. I received a call from my friend Len Besthoff , the Investigative reporter for NBC Connecticut. He asked me if I was listening to my scanner because they were getting word of a plane crash at Bradley. I told him I thought I had heard the Windsor Locks Dispatcher calling for aid from surrounding towns , both Fire trucks and Ambulances. I didn't really pay attention because it sounded like one of their regular drills of the region's "Red Plan". The red plan is the playbook for the emergency response to major disasters.
Since my mother lives very close to the Bradley, I called her and asked if she could see any smoke or heard anything that sounded like a plane crash. She sounded shaken on the phone and her response was "Oh my God, I hope it wasn't the plane that just flew over"
Apparently, her and my sister Sheryl were both in her front yard when a vintage bomber flew directly over my mothers house in what wasn't the normal flight path for aircraft landing at Bradley. They both paid attention because the engines were loud. My mother noticed the four propeller's and my sister said she wished she had her camera close by because the plane was beautifully restored and was flying so low it would have made for some great photos. They could clearly make out the glass bubbles for the nose gunner and belly gunner.
What drew their attention though was the "popping" sounds coming from the engine.
I called Len back and told him what5 Mom had just told me and he said they were just getting calls that a vintage military aircraft had crashed and they could see a plume of smoke on their Bradley camera..
By that point things were becoming very chaotic. Ironically, right before Len called, I was on the phone with retired HPD Deputy Chief Brian Foley, now working in the Commissioners Office at Public Safety, he quickly cut our call short telling me that Governor LaMont's Office was calling, word of the crash was spreading, quickly.
As the day progressed, I was proud to know so many of the professionals involved in unraveling the incident. Initially, The Connecticut State Police had control of the situation and Commissioner Rovella did a great job, as he usually does, putting a sense of order to what can be the chaos of a fast moving situation. Rovella has always been striving for transparency, and between Rovella, Foley and the CSP command staff details were flowing quickly without the usual misinformation these tragedies tend to generate.
Rovella's demeanor and professionalism had to be reassuring to the families and anyone watching the live press conferences as well as instilling confidence that the investigation , at least on the States part, would be thorough and orderly.
Rovella alluded to the acts of heroism and the related stories that would be coming out. Those stories will only help to let people know there are still good people out there and we can count on our neighbors and each other when it really counts. Just the number of volunteer firefighters and EMS people that mobilized in minutes, many putting their own lives in danger or disrupting their work day to respond is gratifying....
And now to the ugly. While watching the live news conference and the first briefing I was extremely disappointed in someone that is supposed to be the elder "statesman" from Connecticut, Senator Richard Blumenthal. Governor Lamont was respectful and actually seemed very emotional during the briefing, his test for his first major disaster as Governor. I Give Governor Lamont a grade of "A" or even "A plus". Senior Senator Blumenthal gets an "F"
For some reason Blumenthal saw the need to even be in the room. He nearly elbowed Airport Authority Executive Kevin Dillon away from the podium so he could get control of the microphone. It then became a chest thumping "guess how important I am " moment for Blumenthal he had to go on to tell that he had ordered the response from the NTSB and that he was so important and NTSB answered to him as a member of the Transportation Committee. He went on to say that he would be looking at Legislation to hold these vintage aircrafts to legislative accountability and safety.
Senator Blumenthal, as soon as the first part of the landing gear on the B-17 touched a lighting stanchion at Bradley, the NTSB protocol's already had staff grabbing their "go bags" and they were t destined for Bradley. Your call was unnecessary, other than to boost your political ego. People just died and were injured, the last thing those families need was some politician trying to gain political points immediately after a tragedy.
Commissioner Rovella, Airport Authority Director Kevin Dillon and Governor Lamont's staff already had the situation well under control and your presence was more of a nuisance than anything reassuring.
Maybe your presence in Washington D.C. actually dealing with issues like health care and gun control would be more beneficial than running for the nearest Television camera to bolster your own self image.
Enough of that rant, Congratulations to every one that brought out what is good, actually great, about Connecticut Even though a tragedy occurred and lives were lost, you all made us proud of your efforts