Dates are a chronic problem when you get older.  Especially the ones that bring back haunting memories, like February 6, 1992, when a C-130 Hercules crashed into the Drury Inn and JoJo's Restaurant in Evansville. 

I will never forget that day.

Around 9am, the 5-man crew of the C-130 began touch-and-go training landings out of Dress Regional Airport.  It was carrying 6,000 pounds of aviation fuel.

In room 416 at the Drury Inn, Plumbing and Industrial Supply Company, was holding a quality control seminar for its employees.

At 9:48am, the world changed forever.

According to the 400-page investigation report from the FAA, the training pilot on the C-130 simulated an engine failure on ascent (something every pilot must be prepared for)  The report says the pilot became distracted with checklists and air traffic control commands and did not notice the aircraft was rapidly losing altitude.

The C-130, shuddered, stalled and banked to the left.  There was not enough altitude for the training pilot to recover the aircraft and take it back into the air.

It nose-dived into the rear of JoJo's restaurant, digging a crater 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide.  Chucks of flaming debris, brick, concrete and the plane were thrown hundreds of feet into the air, across the highway and into the four story Drury Inn.  It tore open the side of the building that housed room 416, where Plumbing and Industrial Supply Company was holding its quality control seminar.

The impact shook the ground.  I felt it.  I was at my parents home, just about a mile away from the crash site, waiting to leave for class at USI.  The impact from the crash was so intense the pictures on my bedroom wall fell off and were shaken from their positions.  My perfume tray shimmied to the edge of my dresser.  My cat ran under the bed.  I thought we were having an earthquake.

Yes.  It was that bad.

The fire burned for the next 4 hours.  The dark, black stack of smoke could be seen for miles.  The scene smoldered for days.

My friends and I had been in the rear corner booth at JoJo's earlier that morning, as we were just about every morning, just hanging out, talking for hours, about nothing.

I called the number for JoJo's (I knew it by heart).  I don't know why, just to see if it was disconnected, I guess, and it just rang and rang and rang.  It wasn't real.  How could the place where my friends and I called "home" be gone?

It took weeks to deal with the reality of JoJo's being gone.

Even now, 20 years later, I still can't go in what is now Denny's and not see where everything once was.  The men's bathroom is where the ladies bathroom was back then.  The ladies bathroom is where the men's was.  The fish tank that was in the middle of the dining room was awesome.  Some of the fish survived the fire.  They were taken to Harp's Pets.

You want to know how tight the JoJo's regulars and its employees were?  When it reopened in the summer of 1992, my friends and I missed out on being invited to come and have dinner on the first night as part of a private reopening party.  Betty, one of the waitresses, and her daughter (who's name I can't remember) couldn't track us down.  We were that tight and we were in there that often.  JoJo's meant that much to everyone.

For anyone that knew JoJo's, that was "there" when the C-130B went down, the plaque that honors Lynette Scott, 27, and Mathew Phipps, 28, (who died in the kitchen of JoJo's that day) is a revered spot.  I cannot walk into what is now Denny's without stopping and bowing my head to notice they are gone.


In the Drury Inn, Room 416 does not exist.  It is an homage to the 9 people who died there that day.


Those Who Died in the C-130B
Maj. Richard A. Strang, 39 years old, of Floyds Knobs, Ind.
Capt. Warren J. Klingaman, 29, of Louisville, Ky.
Second Lieut. Vincent D. Yancar, 25, of Louisville.
Master Sgt. William G. Hawkins, 41, of Crestwood, Ky.
Master Sgt. John M. Medley, 38, of Louisville.
Those Who Died at the Drury Inn
Darrell Arnold, 38, Evansville
Charles Berqwitz, 22, Evansville
Robert Hays, 45, Evansville
David Horton, 29, Evansville
Ronald Keown, 45, Chandler
Mathew Prasek, 27, Evansville
Thomas Ruby, 28, Evansville
John Stallings, 41, Evansville
Harry Tenbarge, 51, Evansville
Those Who Died at JoJo's
Lynette Scott, 27, Evansville
Mathew Phipps, 28, Evansville