By Rob Kean
On Easter Sunday 2010, a father from Needham watched his 10-year-old son take off with his grandfather in the latter’s Cessna from Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford. A short time later, he received that phone call every parent dreads.
There’d been an accident.
Attempting to land at Minute Man Air Field in Stow, grandfather and grandson had encountered an ill wind that bounced their plane off the tarmac, and though a “go-around” flight maneuver was attempted, the aircraft plunged nose-first into the ground and cartwheeled before coming to rest upside down in the early Spring mud.
Confusion and chaos reigned for the two people hanging inverted in a ruined plane. And then the sound of sirens on the fast approach, as Emergency Service teams from Stow and Boxborough raced to the scene. And for the father from Needham, it was speaking directly to one of these first responders on the phone that breathed life back into him, with the knowledge that his son and dad were going to be okay.
And so three-and-a-half years later, but still eternally grateful, all three returned to the scene of the crash this past Saturday, joining other thankful survivors of local accidents for Boxbourgh-Stow Emergency Services Appreciation Day. The event, hosted by The Friends of Minute Man Air Field, the Airport Commission, local pilots, and airport owners Nancy and Don McPherson, was held inside Nancy’s Airfield Café, and open to all. But the guests of honor, of course, were those wearing uniforms, the elite men and women for whom being heroes is simply doing their jobs.
The back room of the Café was filled with police and firefighters from both Stow and Boxborough, along with their families and others who were there to honor their services.
And honored they were. The piloting grandfather recalled the wreckage of that day, and the calming skill of the paramedics who treated his grandson’s head injury, along with his own discombobulated vital signs. “At my age, I didn’t realize my heart could beat that fast,” he said. “I tell you…I’m so glad the paramedics were there.”
A man named Scott stood as well, and told of his own life-altering moment back in 1994, when his plane went down on Marble Hill. Nineteen years later, he sees no end to his admiration for the fire personnel who saved him.
Even the proprietor of Nancy’s Airfield Café herself gave a testimonial. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, a stove was left on in the restaurant kitchen, and soon billows of smoke darkened the sky, terrifying all except the firefighters who charged right in. On this day, two weeks before Christmas, she stood in her fully intact café, serving up lunch and gratitude to her heroes. “You saved my business,” Nancy McPherson told them.
Also on-hand were State Reps Kate Hogan and Jen Benson, who presented citations to Stow Fire Chief Joseph Landry and Stow Police Chief William Bosworth, as well as Boxborough Police Chief Warren Ryder and Fire Chief Randolph White
Representative Benson spoke of reflecting, on her way there, on the Marathon Bombing, and voiced her never-ending admiration for “those who run toward danger when everyone else is running away from it.”
Meanwhile, the objects of all this adulation received it humbly. Chief Landry deflected thanks back onto the McPhersons, for hosting the event, and for running such a first-class operation at the Air Field. Starting a round of applause for the hosts, everybody else was applauding him and his cohorts.
As the speeches ended, lunchtime conversations began. Police officers and politicians talked shop over soup, while EMTs responded to the scene of simple good eats. The father from Needham, a physician by trade, played photographer on this day, while his son and father talked about the next time they would go flying together. At the table next to theirs, Stow firefighter Judson Swinimer oversaw the hot dog consumption of his three young kids.
When asked how it felt to have a hero for a dad, his daughter Chloe grinned shyly. “I’m really proud of him,” she said.
Then she buried her face in her father’s chest.