In this Readers’ Platform, your author reflects on when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building.

by Bud Johnson

July 1945 was a great time to be alive in NYC. Germany had recently surrendered to the Allies, ending World War II in Europe, and Japan would soon be defeated. After five years of war, people felt happy and safe.

The heavy fog covering Manhattan the Saturday morning of July 28, 1945, created a quiet stillness in the air. At 9:49 that morning, that stillness was suddenly and horribly broken when a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State building (see this month’s Online Extras at, killing 11 people in the building and three men in the B-25. The impact created a 20-X-18-ft hole in the building. As the aircraft disintegrated in a ball of fire, debris shot into the building. One of the plane’s engines ripped into the shaft of elevator number six, causing it to freefall 75 floors and crash into the pit. The lone person in the elevator, elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver, miraculously survived.