Crashing into the History Books

On May 21st, 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly a plane over the Atlantic ocean by herself. She ended up crashing in a field near Derry, rather than landing safely in France as she had intended, but she earned her title nonetheless and became an important symbol and inspiration to women everywhere. Ms. Earhart had a passion for flying and when a friend arranged for her to be a passenger on a jaunt from Newfoundland to Wales in June 1928, she jumped at the chance. When they landed, she was thrust into the spotlight for being the first woman to complete that route but brushed off the fame, making sure everyone knew that she had just been a passenger on the voyage. She reminded everyone that “Stultz did all the flying – he had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” She later added, “…maybe someday I’ll try it alone”  and if anyone doubted those words, they were fools. She became one of the only females in America to begin flight training and once she had enough hours, she began competing in the air. Her love for flight and her close resemblance to Charles Lindbergh earned her the nickname of “Lady Lindy” – which she disliked immensely. What she loved, however, was the chance to prove that women could fly – and that anyone else could and should too for that matter. She was one of the first faces of commercial travel – and she and Lindbergh both had a ton of popularity and press whenever they attempted or endorsed anything new.

Amelia Earhart made her mark in history just five years after Lindbergh completed his maiden voyage across the Atlantic. Her trip was one disaster after another. After braving fifteen long hours of storms, failing equipment, and finally, a leaky gas tank which burst into flames, she set her plane down in a field of cows outside of Derry. She later claimed that although she had never been to Ireland, as soon as she saw the green fields and the thatched cottages she knew exactly where she was landing. When she emerged covered in grease and soot, the surprised farmer stared for a long minute before asking “Have you flown far?”  She smiled and replied “Oh, just from America“….and with that, history was made.

Amelia spent the night with the Gallegher family while her plane continued to burn in their field. She called her husband to tell him that the news of her devastating crash in France was grossly exaggerated and way off the mark, since she was safe on a farm in Ireland. And when the congratulations and the reports began to pour in the next day, Amelia Earhart knew that her place in the books had been secured. Her place in Ireland was too, for a time. The field north of Derry was a small museum dedicated to her for many years. Unfortunately, the museum no longer exists but the buildings still stand and the area around it is a lovely park and a wildlife preserve, so it is still well traveled and gorgeous to behold.

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