In the picture, an unidentified woman is led from the scene of the Hindenburg disaster at the U.S. Naval Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937.
The woman is walking away unscathed. Her English is serviceable, but she barely understands what the man is saying when he takes her by the arm. She goes with him, craning her neck around to see the ground swallowing the mighty zeppelin.
Another man, this time a German survivor, takes her other arm, and the two men rush her away from the burning wreckage. Her face is pale, numbed by the horror of the night. The German tells her not to look back, first in English, and then in their language.
When they reach the hanger and the flames of the Hindenburg are in the safe distance, its devilish glow lighting up the night, she laughs. The eyes of the men are on her. She covers her mouth to hide the embarrassment. She has just survived this, but she has also survived so much more.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the man she left hasn’t learned about her escape and won’t until Tuesday when he returns from a business trip to Köln. The closet empty, her belongings gone.
The unidentified woman watches from inside the hanger as the last of the Hindenburg’s frame crumples, the sounds of men shouting are all around her, their voices trying to call back the dead and return the zeppelin to the sky. Beside her she notices the zeppelin service man crying. He weeps into his hands while sitting on the edge of a metal folding chair; his cap crumpled beside him on the ground. Behind him the hanger is becoming a way station for the dead. They’ve begun to line up the sheet-covered bodies in rows.
A Michigan native, Mike Salisbury's fiction has appeared in Avery Anthology, Black Warrior Review, Crab Orchard Review, Bombay Gin, and The Emerson Review. Mike is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Pacific University. He lives and works along the Front Range of the Rockies.