Harriet Quimby falls to her death

Some will say that vertigo overtook the aviatrix; just a woman’s weakness at the controls of an aeroplane. Some will say the Bleriot is to blame, a tough one to handle (something about the tail’s weight), though her mechanician insists she’s the only one to tame the machine. Some will attest to her passenger’s excitement (William Willard won the seat, as the manager of the air meet), how he was warned to sit tight and do as she says, not to lean to the side, even if he’s sick, or reach for a personal article about to fall out (she wears a lucky Scarab beetle around her wrist), and for God’s sake don’t wave to the crowd as she’s circling around, heading into the wind (before him, only sandbags fill the passenger seat, and she makes no secret of her preferred seatmate).

Whatever the reason, the Bleriot pitches forward in an angle too steep for recovery; Willard goes first, a darkly clad form, a speck in the sky no bigger than an insect, and with the balance upset the Bleriot bucks the aviatrix; she tumbles behind him before the entire grandstand erupts—this is no stunt—in hysteria. Several spectators collapse. But a few spring to action, rushing the surf with stretchers. They find boots blown off and clothing afloat in the shallow flats, where it takes some time and terrible action to free the two from the mud’s clutch. Further away, the Bleriot is found remarkably intact. With no weight on its back, the aeroplane steadied itself and landed upright as a cat.

Rachael Peckham
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