Flight 232: Snapshots of tragedy and triumph - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Flight 232: Snapshots of tragedy and triumph

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- This weekend marks the twentieth anniversary of a tragic plane crash in Sioux City.

One-hundred-twelve people died when United Flight 232 went down -- an amazing 184 people survived.

There are many images that came from July 19th, 1989. A plane cart wheeling down a runway, debris scattered in the air and on the ground. But one image, of a National Guardsman carrying a small child became a symbol of Siouxland's response to the crash of United Flight 232.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A moment in time, captured in each frame.

"I think pictures are very powerful," says former Sioux City Journal photographer Gary Anderson.

On this day, Sioux City Journal Photographer Gary Anderson says he stood there, not knowing what to take a picture of next.

"And that's when all of a sudden I noticed somebody running towards me, a guardsman carrying at that time I couldn't tell if it was a boy, a girl, dead or alive. And obviously we had motors on our cameras so I probably fired off six frames."

Out of those frames, a picture seen around the world. An image of then Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Nielsen of the 185th Fighter Wing carrying three-year-old Spencer Bailey. That image became a symbol of community response. The centerpiece for the Spirit of Siouxland Memorial on Sioux City's riverfront. A tribute to all the men and women who were there that day and the days that would follow.

"You think about what a great place Sioux City is to live with the fire, and rescue and hospitals and ambulances, volunteers," Anderson said.

Colonel Nielsen once said when responders and community members stand here, they should see their own face in the statue. The faces of those who gathered clothes from the site and washed them so family members didn't have to bare the burden. The faces of all who worked in the morgue to identify the dead because it needed to be done, and the faces of those who stood in line to donate blood for people they did not know. A tribute to a community that "reached inside itself and found resources it didn't know it had." A place of honor for those who lost the people most precious to them. A memorial to those who had faith in each other to get through a turbulent time.

It's easy to see the statue and still think of Spencer Bailey as a little boy. He was three at the time. Spencer and his brother Brandon were seriously hurt and their mother was killed in the crash.

Spencer, now 23, lives in New York City and will begin working on a masters in Journalism this fall. He says his family is forever grateful for the impact this community has had on their lives.

Colonel Dennis Nielsen has since retired from the military and currently lives in North Carolina.

You can learn more by watching NewsChannel 4's in-depth, half-hour special marking the twentieth anniversary. It airs Saturday, July 18th at 6:30 pm and Sunday night at 10:30.

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