Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Literally the Best Reviews: One on the Ground

One on the Ground-- Karen Wielinski
336 Pages

Those of us in Western New York remember February 12, 2009 pretty well. Haunting images filled the television screens as we woke up in the next morning. For some people, it was a long night filled with terror and chaos. For Karen Wielinski, she lost more than a house when Continental Flight 3407 crashed on Long Street in Clarence, New York. She lost a husband, a partner, a soul mate. One on the Ground is her story of that winter evening.

Karen Wielinski was in her house along with her daughter and husband, Doug. She kissed him goodnight as he went to another room to watch another television show or to work on one of his hobbies. The next moment, the world turned on its side, full of flame and smoke. Miraculously, Karen and her daughter were able to escape the maelstrom to safety. Doug was not so lucky. He was “and one on the ground” as the media so often pointed out.

Karen Wielinksi’s One on the Ground is a collection of essays meant to not only detail what happened that fateful evening, but is also meant to be a tribute to her husband. Through a series of these essays, Karen tells us of the night her husband died and of the immediate aftermath of a destroyed home and life. She takes us on a journey through the years she and Doug had together -- their meeting, their wedding, and raising a family. We learn, through her words, who Doug was, other than “one on the ground.”

The chaos and uncertainty of what she was facing in the moments after the accident echo through her words. What had happened? Where was her home? Where was her daughter? Where was Doug? Neighbors and strangers came together to reunite her with her daughter and to keep her from more harm.

The actual crash does not take up much space in the book. Most of the book can be split into a telling of her life before and after February 12, 2009. We learn the story of their courtship and marriage and journey into parenthood. Doug Wielinski is more than a name in the newspaper. We learn about his sports memorabilia collection and his sense of humor.

After the accident, Karen had to go through boxes and boxes of artifacts collected by the NTSB from the home. Each box brought more memories and more stories and tears. It was definitely a very poignant way to relate the story of their lives together. Part of that included the hell that the airlines put the families through as a means to try to avoid paying out any settlements. The frustration shines clear through Karen’s writing. Her writing about the lawyers working against them were so well written, I actually got angry with the lawyers even though I’ve never met them.

Writing these essays was a way for Karen Wielinski to deal with the tragedy that befell her. Her heart-stopping descriptions of her experiences that night and the memories of her life as she holds broken and charred mementos in her hands will tear at your emotions as you read. He love for Doug and her four daughters shines through. Her anger at the airlines and their legal team is distinctly felt with each sentence.

Being a local historian, this book interested me for its historical value. Since the book was written as a series of essays over a matter of a few years, sometimes she repeats the stories a bit. This actually does not detract from the narrative. It reinforces the chaos and mayhem that she faced in the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407.

This book is a very unique view of the crash and the lives affected. Written by a woman who lived through the horrors of trying to dig her way out of the ruins of her house, One on the Ground by Karen Wielinksi is like no other book you’ll read on a plane crash. The first person account is critical, and she offers a glimpse into the life of Doug that no one else could ever give, especially not a third party author.

Craig Bacon reads and reviews a lot of books. This one moved him more than almost any other book he’s ever read.