Category Archives: Ruby’s reviews

Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales

Come with me. Honor those heroes and survivors of Flight 232 and remember those who were lost on this 30th anniversary of the disaster in Sioux City, Iowa.

Title: Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival
Author:  Laurence Gonzales
Publish Date: July 13, 2015
Genre:  non-fiction
Source:  Purchased by reviewer

Publisher’s Description:  As hundreds of rescue workers waited on the ground, United Airlines Flight 232 wallowed drunkenly over the bluffs northwest of Sioux City. The plane slammed onto the runway and burst into a vast fireball. The rescuers didn’t move at first: nobody could possibly survive that crash. And then people began emerging from the summer corn that lined the runways. Miraculously, 184 of 296 passengers lived.

No one has ever attempted the complete reconstruction of a crash of this magnitude. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of survivors, crew, and airport and rescue personnel, Laurence Gonzales, a commercial pilot himself, captures, minute by minute, the harrowing journey of pilots flying a plane with no controls and flight attendants keeping their calm in the face of certain death. He plumbs the hearts and minds of passengers as they pray, bargain with God, plot their strategies for survival, and sacrifice themselves to save others.

Ultimately he takes us, step by step, through the gripping scientific detective work in super-secret labs to dive into the heart of a flaw smaller than a grain of rice that shows what brought the aircraft down.

An unforgettable drama of the triumph of heroism over tragedy and human ingenuity over technological breakdown, Flight 232 is a masterpiece in the tradition of the greatest aviation stories ever told.

Ruby Lee says…


On a humid, hot, and sticky July day, countless lives were changed forever when a crippled DC- 10 airplane drunkenly made its way to the airport in Sioux City, IA.   On July 18, 1989, an odd series of mechanical events, that some in the aeronautics world had labeled improbable, crippled the plane over Alta, IA.  By another odd series of events that many label a miracle, the plane was able to make it to the Sioux Gateway Airport but crashed on landing.  The crash tore the plane in pieces and exploded into a fiery projectile.  The film of the crash has been played innumerable times on local and national TV in the last 30 years.  It was the first time a crash of a jumbo jet had ever been recorded.  The miracle is that because of the efforts of the flight crew and the preparedness of the people of Siouxland, a 185 people survived that day

As the 30 year anniversary of the crash of Flight 232 approached, I felt drawn to read this book.  Thirty years ago today, I was in Sioux City with my mom and brother.  The 12 year old me was getting the last of what I needed for the Church camp I would be attending the following week in Okoboji, IA.   We spent much of the day in the Southern Hills Mall which is located only a few miles from the airport.  As we started the 45 minute drive home, we began to see ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles racing to Sioux City.  My mom and I read out loud the names on the side of each vehicle which matched the name of a local community.  We wondered what could have possibly happened to cause the need for that many emergency personal.  We didn’t know that the flight tower had called an “Alert Three” which mobilized 80 pieces of emergency equipment from 40 different communities to the air field.  When we arrived home, the 3 TV channels that we could receive back then were filled with the horrible images of a crashing plane with the beautiful blue Iowa sky in the background.

Laurence Gonzales wove this story together masterfully.  Somehow, he was able to tell a 100 small stories inside one impressive book that flowed together seamlessly.  The amount of research and interviews that he did is almost unimaginable. The attention to even the smallest details brought this story to life. This book made me feel like I know many of these people personally despite the fact I have never met them. He also tells the story of the defective part of the engine from the day that it was made, to the day it brought down the plane, then to the Alta, IA field where it was undetectable until it was found by a combine during the harvest, and finally to the research area of “Cell 10” at GE where it was analyzed on the micro level and a cause was found.

The audiobook is also remarkable.  I listened to half this book while traveling and finished the story by reading it on my kindle. Either way, I feel that you will find this book as amazing as I did.

Other recommendations…

…you might try Invisible Heroes of World War II: True Stories That Should  Never Be Forgotten by Jerry Borrowman.

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