Farewell to Kennett Love, Times correspondent who covered the plane crash in 1952

love-articleInlineKennett Love had an illustrious career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. Among other milestones, he covered pivotal events in the Middle East in the 50’s during the beginnings of the cold war. He was in Tehran in 1953 when the CIA successfully overthrew Iran’s prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, replacing him with Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi who was a loyalist to Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and who also had close ties to the US. His reporting may have played a part in the coup.

But when I read of Kennett Love’s death this past weekend, at 88, I thought of his story about the American Airlines commuter plane that crashed into my family’s home, killing my sister. He wrote with compassion about the devastation and his article gave me some of the missing details of the accident. I learned from his story that the pilot’s wife had awaited his return only a few blocks away where they lived. That ten boys who were at the candy store below my parents’ apartment escaped unharmed. He was among the first to write about my sister Donna’s death in the fire. His writing style in that article riveted me when I found it. He wrote:

“Beside the cockpit, in a smoking doorframe, was a child’s tricyle.”

“The searchers were obscured by smoke and steam and the steady rain as they combed the embers for the bodies of the dead. Their wet black slickers glistened in the light of huge mobile arc lamps as they carried out their loaded stretchers or bustled intruding bystanders from their path.”

“Beside the fallen house, in a corner of the vacant lot, stood an array of three small freshly painted billboards. They were untouched and stood out strangely in the smoke and glare and confusion against the background of burned buildings.”

Kennett Love covered that accident in the beginning of his long career, but he remembered it well when I found him and spoke to him on the phone as I embarked on the research for Replacement Child. He recalled thinking then of my parents, “how could anyone survive such a devastating event in their life.”

I never got to meet Mr. Love, but I’m glad we spoke. He was one tangible link I had to the reality of the accident that changed the course of my family. Rest in peace Mr. Love.

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