Saturday, January 14, 2012

PATCO Writers Respond

One of the most interesting parts of my research for this book was discovering the number of fired air traffic controllers who turned to writing to make sense of their experience.  I have learned a lot from these PATCO veterans.  Some wrote novels.  Others wrote memoirs.   Some penned screen plays.  Most of them were never published.  Indeed, most were never finished.  But for many PATCO families, strike veterans, and people curious about what happened in 1981, the memories preserved by these writings can be quite revealing.
     Recently, I heard from two PATCO veterans whose work I read as part of my research.  One of them was Terry Paddack whose novel, Crossing Runways, is pictured above and can be found on Amazon at this link. Terry wrote to say that he had enjoyed Collision Course.  And he shared the review he wrote of the book on Amazon.  "As a fired air traffic controller and PATCO striker, I found myself reliving the emotional and sometimes painful of memories and loss of the people who are no longer with us," he wrote.  I was happy to see Collision Course favorably reviewed in the New York Times, of course.  But the author of that review, Bryan Burrough, had no deep knowledge of air traffic controllers or labor, and certainly had not experienced this story the way Terry did.  So in many ways it is even more gratifying to receive a favorable review from Terry, who, as he said, "lived this story."  You can read his full review here.    
     Most of the PATCO veterans who did write about their experiences either never finished their projects or never brought them to publication.  Still, some of these unpublished works are enormously informative.  One of the best unpublished PATCO memoirs I read was a 428 page manuscript called "One Strike and You're Out," by Robert E. Lambrecht, who worked at Chicago Center.  Robert was the other PATCO writer I've heard from recently.  His own unpublished manuscript was detailed and revealing.  Among other things, it gave me one of the best accounts I found regarding how he and his generation of controllers learned to do the work.  Recently Robert wrote to say he enjoyed my book:  "If there was ever a book written which needs to be considered the 'Bible for Labor' and to be seriously read and understood by Non-management workers in America, it would be Collision Course in my humble opinion," he said.  I'm grateful for his endorsement (and for his encouragement over the years I worked on the book).  He sent a very thoughtful three-page statement on his own experience and reflection 30 years later.  It can be read in full at this link.
   I'm thankful that Terry and Robert took the time to write and I'm very pleased to recommend them and their writing to anyone who wants to learn more about what it was like to live the history I wrote about.  

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