A Memorial Service for Emilio Carranza

In 2003 my wife and I attended the annual memorial service. There were perhaps 150-250 people in attendance, their cars lining Carranza Rd, forcing us to walk nearly 1/2 mile to the Memorial Site itself. The Memorial began with an introduction by William Heller, Carranza Chairman of the Mt Holly Post 11. He explained why they hold this memorial every year. I’ll admit that I didn’t get it just yet. I recall thinking prior to coming, “Ok, the guy died trying to fly long distance. It’s a tragedy, but why do they do this? Do they have memorials every year for Christie Macauliffe?” I regret thinking that because I now understand.

After a brief speech by a priest, and Lawrence Gladfelter, Commander of Post 11, the principle speakers began. They included:

Sergio Villabulos, Lt Col of the Mexican Embassy, Military & Air Attaché,
Billy Mack, NJ Department Commander, Trenton, NJ
Doug Satterfield, LT Col, US Army Reserve, Ft Dix

Their speeches were followed by placing of the wreathes, dozens of them, then a military salute via the playing of taps, and even a military fly-over by a very old bomber of some sort. I couldn’t tell what model it was…. They also displayed a small piece of Carranza’s wreckage that was recently discovered in the local firehouse.

mexicanspeaker

generalspeaker

flyover

wreaths

wreckage

Afterwards I thought long and hard about what Carranza did and why. I thought about what it meant and it suddenly dawned on me. We live in an age where anything is possible. Non-stop flights from Newark to Tokyo are a reality. We may soon be able to take low orbit shuttles to make that trip in 3 hours. Travel is just not a big deal. Yeah, it may be uncomfortable and sometimes expensive, and yeah after 9/11 it’s a hassle dealing with security, but do any of us really think about air travel with any wonder any more? We have space shuttles going up it seems every month or two, and we even have an orbiting space station where astronauts remain for extended periods of time. Can the orbiting hotels envisioned in the movie 2001 be that far off? What’s next? Manned trips to Mars? Even if we do that, will most of relate to it? None of us expect us to be traveling thru space like Captain Kirk any time soon.

Think back to 1928. Air travel was not commonplace. We didn’t have Fedex to overnight packages. We didn’t even have an interstate Highway System like Route 80 until 30 years later, so even traveling by auto was a slow process. If we could travel long distances, it could mean a world of difference, opening up commerce possibilities, tourism, as well as a greater exchange of culture and knowledge. Charles Lindbergh proved it could be done, and Carranza was going to be next. He flew around America, attempting to generate better relations between our two nations. Carranza was an inspiration to everyone, both in America & Mexico, and even around the world. He was trying to push the limits of existing technology, to demonstrate what we all would someday be able to do. It must’ve seemed very relevant to most people, even if many couldn’t exactly envision what changes long distance air travel would bring. Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of his death. Hopefully there will be more then 200 people at that service. More people should know what he did, and why & how he died. Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane or received anything that traveled by plane owes a debt to all those who helped make air travel as we know it possible. We all know who the Wright brothers are. Most of us know who Charles Lindbergh is. Most do not even know the name Emilio Carranza. Hopefully that will change.

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