Friday, July 04, 2008

These Are the People You are Accusing: Part IV

I wasn't going to do any more excerpts, I don't want to push the spirit of fair use too far, but this was requested by a reader. From page 401 of Firefight:

Whitworth had positioned himself at the edge of the punch-out hole to eyeball everything searchers were hauling out. Hill walked by with square object, blackened with soot, headed for the bin, when he stopped her. "Hey, gimmee that," he said, pulling the burnt object out of her hands.

The device was roughly the size of a shoe box, melted on one end. It was ashen-colored and looked nothing like the pictures of the black boxes- which were orange- but Whitworth could tell that it wasn't part of the building. "We need to let the NTSB look at this," he declared.

Whitworth found one of the NTSB analysts. "Oh fuck," she groaned when she looked at the mangled device. She identified it as the airplane's cockpit voice recorder, which captured sounds in the cockpit. It looked to be nearly demolished- there was a marginal chance they'd be able to get any information from it.

Still it was a breakthrough. Whitworth returned to the punch-out hole a moment later, empty-handed. "Hey, that was a great find," he told Hill. "That was one of the black boxes. Where'd you find it?"

"Right over here," she said, pointing to a stack of jumbled rubble. Searchers formed a circle around the pile and started digging, since the black boxes on 757s were both in the same section of the airplane.

About half an hour later another NTSB expert uncovered a device that looked like it could be the other black box. It turned out to be the flight data recorder, which collected electronic information about the operation of the jet. Both of the black boxes had finally been found, pulled like two broken shells from an ocean of debris.