My Hero Died This Week

May/09/2012 16:52PM
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Most of us go through life with people who are very special to us. Parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, and friends. We don’t normally label them heroes. I had my personal hero, but God took him this week.

Denny Fitch truly saved my life and the lives of many more in 1989. Denny was a passenger on UA flight 232. He was a United employee catching a ride home for the weekend. When a turbine rotor sheared and cut all hydraulics he choose to come forward to the cockpit to help the crew. On his knees in the cockpit, he kept a DC10, with no controls, aloft, until it got to the Sioux City airport, and nearly landed the plane.

I was a passenger on that plane. One of the lucky ones. I flew home that night. Denny Fitch didn’t. He was in the hospital for weeks and had many surgeries following his release from the hospital.

Denny later made a career of making speeches for charity. I took my family to hear him speak for a local hospice. One by one, my wife, my two daughters, and my six grand kids went up to Denny and hugged and kissed him and thanked him for his courage. By the time I got to Denny he was in tears. My older daughter had given him a poem she wrote and it was more than he could handle. Denny and I had a long talk that night and decided we needed to spend more time together. We were both going to be in Arizona that winter and made plans to get together. As the saying goes, “man plans and God smiles.” Denny got sick that winter and we never got together.

He wasn’t just my personal hero, he was the personal hero of every survivor and all of their families. All of their friends, as well.

To you, Denny, I say, blue skies and tailwinds forever in heaven.

This is from the Daily Herald in Chicago.

As a trained pilot, Denny Fitch knew instinctively everyone aboard United Flight 232 could die in a matter of minutes.


“I was 46, I had the world ahead of me, I had a beautiful healthy family, and at 4 p.m., I was trying to stay alive,” he said in a documentary interview.

As the DC-10 thrashed, he took a second to think of his wife and three kids and what their last words had been that day back in 1989. “My wife said, ‘I love you, hurry home.’ And with that knowledge and that peace, I was ready to die that day if I had to.”

Fitch and 184 others survived, due in large part to his troubleshooting from the cockpit floor, pulling every aeronautical trick out of the book to control the plunging jet.

But the man hailed as a hero couldn’t stop the aggressive brain cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010.

The 69-year-old St. Charles resident died Monday with his family around him.

“Denny had a strong faith, and that helped him in the end,” his wife, Rosa, said Tuesday.

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