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NOAA Report / May 1996

One Family

T ragedies bring people to g e t h e r . T h e y g i v e u s a p a i n f u l c o m m u n a l i t y , a c o m m o n b o n d , create milestones of despair. The generation that fought and survived through World War II remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news that Franklin Roosevelt had died. And since then, we as Americans have had too many other chances to share our grief on a national scale. Do you remember where you were when President Kennedy died? Or Martin. Bobby. Oklahoma City. When Chal- lenger fell to earth, we paused together, bewildered and shaken, but united.

We at Commerce now have our own disturbing milestone to deal with, one we’ll always remember.

The first news came over the radio about 10 am that horrific day, April 3rd. The cherry blossoms were beginning to bud at the Tidal Basin here in Washington, although the blustery wind and cooler temperatures told us that, this year at least, winter might hang around a little more, just until it was really done with us. Televisions were turned on. Specula- tion ran rampant—the plane, they said, was “down.” Down? Down where? If it was in the water, they at least had a chance.

But as the day wore on, the truth we tried not to face in the morning became horribly apparent:

Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, and 11 Commerce Department employ- ees, our friends and colleagues, had been killed when their plane hit a hillside near the airport at Dubrovnik, Croatia. Two other Federal employees had also died in the crash, along with nationally known businessmen, a reporter for the New York Times and two Croatian nationals.

In the days immediately after, notices were hung here in the Commerce Department building, seemingly taking the place of the leaves that refused to come out for spring. Memorials. Funer-

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