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The Chamber’s Executive Vice President, Chris McGowan, wrote an article (below) that was printed in the Sunday, July 19 Business section of the Sioux City Journal.

Tragedy and Triumph: The Aftermath of 232 

Occasionally, a single incident defines a person’s reputation or legacy.  For example, Rosa Park’s refusal to surrender her seat on a bus in 1955 or Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon in 1969. 

Likewise, communities are sometimes similarly recognized and draw their primary identity from a single incident or event.  Such is the case with Woodstock, New York which will be forever tied to the music festival of the same name. 

From time to time, I am asked if Sioux City enjoys a comparable distinction.  In one respect, I think we do.  I believe our community is inextricably linked to the tragedy and aftermath of the events of twenty years ago today. 

As an employee of The Siouxland Initiative, I work closely with local economic development professionals who are committed to creating additional and enhanced employment opportunities for our tri-state region.  My position has taken me from coast to coast and, on one occasion, overseas to recruit new employers to Siouxland.  In this capacity, I work to promote the region and educate people who generally possess limited knowledge of where “Siouxland” is on the map, what our core industries are, how productive are employees are, etc. 

In a nutshell, I have the privilege and responsibility to introduce my hometown to others. 

In so doing, I regularly explain that I am from Sioux City, Iowa and represent the tri-state area of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  Frequently and recurrently, I am asked, “Isn’t that where that terrible plane crash occurred?”  After an affirmative response, a typical follow-up conversation might go something like this. 

“That was the crash where they were able to videotape the airplane as it cart-wheeled down the runway in a fireball, right?” 

“Yes, United Flight 232 on July 19, 1989,” I’d reply. 

“And didn’t the pilot and air crew do an amazing job flying without any flight controls?” 

“Yes, Captain Al Haynes and his crew miraculously maintained rudimentary control of the aircraft after all three hydraulic systems were severed by the metal fragments of a disintegrating jet engine.” 

“Oh yeah, and after the plane crashed into that cornfield, weren’t there an amazing number of survivors?” 

“Yes, there were 296 souls on board and tragically 112 lost their lives, but 184 survived in large part due to the skill of the flight crew and the competence of the thousands of trained personnel who responded to the crash on the ground.” 

“Of course, of course.  I remember that famous photograph of the pilot carrying that little boy out of the cornfield.” 

“That was Col. Denny Nielsen and the famous photograph by Gary Anderson of the Sioux City Journal appeared on front pages and magazine covers all over the world.  At the time, Col. Nielsen was an A-7 fighter pilot with the 185th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard.  You may remember his famous response upon being asked what it felt like to save the boy’s life, ‘God saved that boy, I just carried him,’ Nielsen explained.” 

“Wow, now that’s humility.  Didn’t they make a film about this starring Charlton Heston, James Coburn and John-Boy from the Walton’s.” 

“Yes, they initially called the made for television movie “Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232,” but later they simply titled it “A Thousand Heroes.” 

“A Thousand Heroes is absolutely right.  I remember the movie’s depiction of the incredible response from the community; the military, the firefighters, hospitals, doctors and nurses, disaster response personnel, volunteers, and blood donors.  Everyone was simply amazing!” 

“I was out of town when the crash occurred, but I cannot tell you how proud I am to call Sioux City home and to know that people around the country, like you, still recognize and remember our community’s response to that tragic crash.” 

Two decades removed from that day, Sioux City is certainly known for other things as well, but after traveling extensively to promote our community, I have found that many people still associate Sioux City with our response to United Flight 232.  As one reporter recently wrote… “the tragedy, along with the community’s heroic rescue effort, is anything but forgotten.”  People from Sioux City and all of the surrounding communities who responded to that disaster should know that their actions defined Siouxland, for many, as a community of decent and caring people who possess a cooperative and “can-do” spirit. 

Twenty years ago, the United Flight 232 tragedy revealed the true character of the citizens of our Siouxland communities.  Long known as humble, hardworking, and honest, on July 19, 1989, the world witnessed compassion, courage, and competence from countless individuals and organizations who instinctively understood the importance of selflessly serving others in their hour of greatest need.

As Captain Al Haynes, portrayed by the late Charlton Heston, states in the movie, “Of all the places in America we could have landed, I thank God it was here.”

Marketing Monday


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Today’s marketing tip is a reminder to listen. Are you listening while using social media, or just yelling your message? Knowing what people are saying about you is just as important as what you have to say to them.

Here are a few tips for learning how to listen on the web:

  • Monitor your reputation. Reputation management programs allow you to see what is being said about you and your company. Programs vary, but the majority allow you to mark content where you are mentioned as either positive, negative, neutral, or your own content.
  • Answer questions. For those using Twitter this is essential. Use @ replies to answer questions about topics your business specializes in. This builds your social media credibility and could possibly get you a sale. Not using Twitter? allows you to find what phrases are searched for key words relevant to your organization. (i.e. Here at the Chamber we search for phrases that include Siouxland Chamber)
  • Look for ways to help. Google has a feature that allows you to search blog content. This is allows you to find people who are talking about a topic relevant to your business. A few examples, search for people moving to the area, looking for places to eat, day care available, local events, etc. Once you find what you’re looking for comment on the blog to start a conversation.

Remembering United 232: The Nation’s Response


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Yesterday you saw how Siouxland responded to the United 232 crash, today we’re looking at how the nation responded to Siouxland. Following the crash letters started to flood city hall.

  • The city of Midland, Texas, picked Sioux City as the recipient of its Community Spirit Award for 1989. The award was presented by President George Bush, a former Midland resident, in the Oval Office.
  • United 232 survivor David Landsberger “The openness, hospitality, warmth and simple caring that each and every person I met showed me, was more restoring than anything else that I could have had. Each of us survivors needed our faith in life given back to us, and the citizens of Sioux City were the ones who gave it to us.”
  • President George Bush “I am sure I speak for many when I commend the extraordinary efforts of the airport personnel, rescue teams, National Guardsmen, and local citizens who rushed to the crash scene to offer aid. The compassion and generosity demonstrated by the entire Sioux City community in the wake of this catastrophe has been overwhelming.”
  • Former Secretary of Transportation, Samuel K. Skinner “From helping victims at the scene, to donating blood and food, to just being there to hold someone’s hand and provide support your response to this tragic situation typified what America is all about. You did all of this not for the money or for headlines; you did it because it typified the spirit of the heartland of America. You did it because it was the right thing to do.”

Countless letters from mayors across the country, and average citizens were sent to the people of Sioux City. Several newspapers, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, praised Siouxland. No matter how many years pass since this tragedy, Siouxland’s response will not be forgotten.

Chamber Trivia


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Here is this week’s question: Can you name the 2009 Sioux City River-Cade Port Admiral and Commodore?

Trivia Logo Siouxland

Think you know…comment on this post with your answer for your chance at a great prize. Trivia questions will be posted each Friday with anwers and winners announced the following Thursday.

Remembering United 232: Siouxland’s Response


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This past fall I took History of American Journalism, and in this class we had to write a paper on our home town paper’s coverage of an event. I chose the United Flight 232 crash because I thought I had such a personal connection to the accident. Both my grandpa, now retired, and dad were firefighters that responded to the scene, and my mom was a nurse at the burn unit. After doing my research and finishing the paper, I realized that just about everyone in Sioux City can claim a personal connection to the accident. Whether you were part of a rescue crew at the scene, someone that rolled up your sleeve to donate blood, opened your dorm room to survivors, or offered your thoughts and prayers, it’s clear that there was an overwhelming response from Siouxland. Today we’re looking at how Siouxlanders gave of themselves to make a difference during this tragedy.

  • Briar Cliff didn’t hesitate to take in survivors with injuries that didn’t require hospitalization. Local businesses began bringing food and beverages to Briar Cliff, bedding and towels were offered, transportation for family members of survivors was arranged, counselors from other Siouxland schools came to be with survivors, and college students and faculty were directing people around campus.
  • Siouxland was prepared. Just 2 years prior to the crash, emergency respondents from Siouxland staged an exercise in handling a plane crash emergency. When Sioux City got the call that the aircraft was headed their way, emergency crews sprang into action. Plans were followed, and volunteers filled in where needed. Emergency personnel from surrounding communities started coming to Sioux City even before the plane went down, and nurses went to hospitals without being called.
  • Siouxlanders wanted to help. One way this was shown was through the long lines surround the blood bank. People waited for hours to donate blood.

Throughout this week the Chamber blog will remember the crew, passengers, and community response to this tragedy that occurred 20 years ago. You’re invited to share your own memories. Directly comment on any post, or send your story to

Remembering United 232: The Passengers


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United Flight 232 was carrying 285 passengers plus 11 crew members when it crashed at Sioux Gateway Airport. 175 passengers and 10 crew members survived the crash. Today as we remember the tragedy that occurred 20 years ago, we’ll remember the passengers of United 232.

  • Spencer Bailey – Subject of a famous photograph showing Lt. Colonel Dennis Nielsen carrying the three-year-old survivor to safety. Spencer’s brother also survived the crash, but their mother did not. A statue in part of Sioux City’s riverfront development is based on the picture.
  • Jerry Schemmel – Radio announcer for the Denver Nuggets. Schemmel later wrote a book about United Airlines Flight 232 titled Chosen to Live, and was credited with saving the life of a child in the crash.
  • Michael R. Matz – Trainer of the 2006 Kentucky Derby favorite and winner, Barbaro. Also credited with saving the lives of four children in the crash, three of whom were in the same family.
  • Dennis E. Fitch – A safety consultant to NASA as a member of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. Also a DC-10 pilot and instructor, he helped Captain Al Haynes fly United Airlines Flight 232.
  • Jan Brown Lohr – United 232’s Senior Flight Attendant. Lohr has t lobbied in Washington D.C. to promote the safety of children on all civilian aircraft and airlines, asking that federal regulations require all children to have a seatbelt on every flight.

Throughout this week the Chamber blog will remember the crew, passengers, and community response to this tragedy that occurred 20 years ago. You’re invited to share your own memories. Directly comment on any post, or send your story to

Weekly Update


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This week’s Chamber update is from Chris McGowan. Listen to what Chris had to say about local colleges and the 20th anniversary of the United flight 232 crash.

Siouxland Colleges

United Flight 232

Remembering United 232: The Crew


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The Pilots – Al Haynes was the pilot flying United 232 the day it crashed at Sioux Gateway Airport. Times magazine called Haynes heroic, and several passengers credit him with their lives. Haynes fought to keep the aircraft under control, he was flying without hydraulics and could only make right turns. After the crash Haynes continued as a pilot until he retired in 1991.

The Flight Attendants – In a story written by the Associated Press following the crash, survivors praised the flight attendants for their performance. Flight attendants were described as calm and helpful both before and after the plane went down. One passenger said that flight attendants gave instructions on what passengers should do right up to the time the aircraft hit the ground. They also assisted in helping passengers escape from the wreckage. Eight flight attendants were present on the flight, one did not survive the crash.

The Tower Crew – Sioux City Journal staff writer, John Quinlan, wrote a piece about a month after the crash in which he described the teamwork that took place among the air traffic controllers at Sioux Gateway Airport. The seven-man tower crew was in communication with pilot Haynes, emergency crews, and ground control. They were also responsible for directing other air traffic that was coming into Sioux Gateway. The air traffic control crew received much praise for the professionalism they displayed in the handling of Flight 232.

Throughout this week the Chamber blog will remember the crew, passengers, and community response to this tragedy that occurred 20 years ago. You’re invited to share your own memories. Directly comment on any post, or send your story to

Remembering Flight 232


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Twenty years ago on July 19th, United Flight 232 crashed at the Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa. The flight was in route from Denver to Chicago when all three of the aircraft’s hydraulic systems were destroyed due to uncontained engine failure.

Picture 006Throughout this week the Chamber blog will remember the crew, passengers, and community response to this tragedy that occurred 20 years ago. You’re invited to share your own memories. Directly comment on any post, or send your story to

A brief memorial will be held at the riverfront this Sunday, July 19th, at 4 p.m. The Chaplain Greg Clapper will preside. For more information contact the Siouxland Chamber 712-255-7903

Following Lewis and Clark’s Trail


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The Iowa Department of Transportation is developing a master plan for a 1103474_antique_compassmulti-use trail that generally follows the route of Lewis and Clark as they explored the Missouri River in Western Iowa. The purpose of the trail would be to provide a great resource for a new generation of people wishing to explore this scenic and historic part of our state.

Take a few minutes to fill out this survey to have your say in development in Western Iowa.

For information about the Lewis and Clark expedition, visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center here in Sioux City.