Today’s Illustration: Moment of Impact*

B-25 airplane  “Roger” — Thank You!

On This Day:  Saturday, July 28, 1945 — A B-25 bomber airplane hits the 78th – 79th floors of the Empire State Building — 913 feet above 34th Street!

The History & Facts:

In his book, The Sky Is Falling, Arthur Weingarten relates to us the true story of the crash of a B-25 bomber into the Empire State building.

It was the morning of July 28th, 1945.

It was a morning just like any other morning, except for the dense, thick fog that blanketed almost the entire New York City area.

Roaring through the milky mist, a battle-weary pilot, Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr. at the controls of the bomber, wove in and out among the skyscrapers, barely missing one after another.

But one it could not miss: the Empire State building, filled with unsuspecting people.

The moment of impact occurred at approximately 9:55 a.m.

At over 250 miles per hour, the airplane smashed into the unoccupied 77th floor of the building.

At that moment, those who were performing their ordinary duties as secretaries, managers or office workers were abruptly stopped from any further activity.

Their lives changed forever. They would find that life for them would never be quite the same again.

Upon colliding with the building an eleven hundred pound part of the engine was severed from the plane and plummeted tens of stories downward to finally crash into the top of the neighboring Waldorf building.

An art studio was completely destroyed, but no one was fatally wounded. Things only seem to grow worse from there.

Another part of the engine slid down a corridor and into elevator shaft number six, where Mary Lou Oliver was working as the elevator operator for just five more minutes until her break at 10:00 a.m.

As the engine hit the elevator shaft, it cut in two the cables holding up the elevator car. Mary Lou was taken totally by surprise. At once she began falling at an incredible rate of speed. She would end up falling over a thousand feet before coming to a crushing halt at the bottom of the shaft. Mary Oliver broke her arm, her back, and both legs, but would recover completely within six months. However, she never forgot that elevator ride.

When the bomber hit the building, it severed all the fuel lines which immediately went up into a mammoth ball of orange flame.

Joe Fountain, upon opening the double glass doors that led to the office corridor, was completely enveloped by a wall of burning furry. Although he would collapse into a coma hours later and eventually die in three months, Joe Fountain would manage to absorb the massive pain of his torched body long enough to help a number of ladies, ironically working in the relief society, make it through safely.

The author, Mr. Weingarten also record numerous other vignettes of some who were burned, buried, killed, and some who survived. But no one was ever the same.*



“This new flight plan took the plane over Manhattan; the crew was specifically warned that the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the city at the time, was not visible.”
The airplane swerved to miss the Chrysler Building, but that moved the plan into the path of the Empire State Building.

An 18 X 20-foot hole was created in the Empire State Building, but there was no structural damage requiring its demolition.

One of the plane’s engines traveled through the Empire State Building and landed in a penthouse across the street!  The penthouse was 13 stories high.

Betty / Mary Lour Oliver was the elevator operator.  She was 19 years old.

Betty / Mary Lou Oliver survived that elevator ride because the elevator’s emergency auto brake saved her life!  She broke her back, pelvis, and neck.

Fourteen people were killed — three in the plane (Captain Smith and two others) and eleven in the building.

The Empire State Building was hit on Saturday and was open for business on the following Monday.

Communication with the Tower:

“The last thing the air traffic controller at La Guardia Airport told the pilot that foggy Saturday morning 50 years ago today sounded almost like an afterthought: “At the present time, I can’t see the top of the Empire State Building.”

“Roger, tower, thank you,” the pilot, Lieut. Col. William F. Smith Jr., muttered into his push-to-talk cockpit microphone, heading west toward Newark.

A minute or two later, disoriented and dodging the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the B-25 saw the top of the Empire State Building — through the windshield.  Roaring along at 200 miles an hour.”


“When Smith arrived in the New York area, the weather was getting worse. He called LaGuardia and requested a clearance to land. With nearly zero visibility, the tower suggested that Smith not land.

“Smith said, ‘Thank you very much’ and signed off,” says Arthur Weingarten, who wrote The Sky Is Falling, about what happened that day. “He ignored it … So he started to make a little bit of a turn that brought him over midtown Manhattan, and as he straightened out, the clouds broke up enough for him to realize he was flying among skyscrapers.”

Captain Smith was a graduate of West Point.

He was flying some servicemen home.

Smith has logged 1,000 hours of combat flight

Smith was a member of the 457th Bomber Group during WWII, which bombed targets in central Germany


Key Illustrative Thoughts:

It will change your life forever!
No one came out of it the same!
It started out as a normal day!
Who knew?
Burned, buried, killed, survived
Died, but helped others first
Prepared or Unprepared!
Job:  At The Moment Of Impact
How do you respond at those moments of impact?
Do you complain to God that you have been unfairly treated?
Do you become bitter and angry?
Do you allow resentment to build up in your life?
The moment of impact: Time to bring glory to God!
Cause: Dense Fog!
Warned, but not enough!
Experience is not enough!
Told, but disregarded it.
Saved Alive
“Roger” — Thank You!


Virtually everyone within the sound of my voice already has or will experience a bitter providence sooner or later.

You can mark it down ahead of time: that at the moment of impact it will almost certainly seem absurd, meaningless and underserved when it comes.

You may be sitting in a restaurant or walking along the street or making a flight connection between destinations when it hits.

The moment of impact for you might be while shaving and singing a hymn when you feel a lump on your neck for the first time.

You may be shopping at the mall with your family when you realize your two-year-old is gone.

Perhaps you will be in the doctor’s office for what you thought was a routine checkup only to find out that you have a fatal disease.


Other Information & Links:

*Originally written by Pastor Lance Walker of Faith Baptist Church

Here is a link to the soundcast of both the personal testimony of that event and a radio announcer:

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