My father William and brother Steven shared a love of travel. My father had expressed his interest in seeing the world to my mom before they were even married. And see the world they did. My father and my mother traveled the world together, going to South America, Europe, China, Japan, Africa; the list goes on. Only a few short months ago, my brother, Steve returned from Vietnam, where he was helping to set up an international family residency program. My brother, Steve and Dad’s most recent trip to Africa was their third adventure there together. They both shared a love of photography and of mysterious animals. Though both have always been adventurous spirits, Steve was the daredevil of the family, having parachuted out of planes and bungee jumped from a bridge in Africa known to be the highest bungee jump in the world.
So together in August of this year, Dad and Steve left for Africa. We all know they were having the time of their lives because every time they returned from one of these trips, they had smiles on their faces and 100,000 photographs. On September 1, there were two small planes on the ground ready for take-off. Their destination was Kilimanjaro Airport. The flight was only supposed to be one hour. I can imagine that my father grabbed my brother and said “C’mon, lets get on the first plane.” My dad was like that, always rushing to be first.
The plane was only a dozen or so miles from its destination when the pilot descended into the clouds to take a closer look at an ancient volcano known as Mt. Meru. The pilot, supposedly very experienced, made a critical error, and their plane clipped a tree colliding into a mountainous ravine. I spoke with a U.S. forensic pathologist, who had the difficult job of identifying remains, and he told me, and I tell you now, that they could not possibly have felt any pain and that their deaths were instantaneous.
These two people, pillars in our family, people who showed us and everyone who knew them, that as humans, nothing is beyond our reach, are now gone. I choose to believe that they are still with us. I feel my father and brother’s presence within me, helping me, guiding me, and showing me what is right and what is wrong. Fifty years ago, it took my father five days to fly from Buenos Aires to Miami, to begin a new life in a new country, a very different land where people spoke a strange language. My father has begun a very different journey from yet another continent, to return again to Miami, but this time, not as a stranger, not as a visitor, but to be buried along with his son in the nation he called “home.” Goodbye Dad, Goodbye Steve. We love you.
(Written by Barry Putterman in memory of his father and brother)
Submitted by Joan Putterman who lost her husband William, 64, and son Steve, 36, aboard Northern Airlines, Tanzania, Africa, September 1, 1999.