“In the Event”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel.

"Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903. (National Archives Identifier 7580929)
“Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903. (National Archives Identifier 7580929)

Today’s poem, “In the Event” by Joshua Weiner, was inspired by a photograph of the Wright Brothers’ original aeroplane during its first flight in 1903.

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright began experimenting with aviation in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They first began with manned gliders and traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1900 to test their crafts.

They chose Kitty Hawk because it had regular breezes and soft surfaces ideal for landing.

After multiple successful flights with the glider, they decide explore the possibility of engine powered aircraft. They designed and built their own craft, and on December 17, 1903, Orville piloted the first powered airplane.

This photo, taken by John T. Daniel of the Life-Saving Service, documented that historic first flight. Orville and his plane soared 20 feet above the beach. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet of ground.

The original caption reads: Original Wright Brothers’ 1903 Aeroplane (“Kitty Hawk”) in first flight, December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Orville Wright at controls. Wilbur Wright standing at right. (first flight was 12 seconds).

Because the Wright brothers came in contact with multiple government agencies, the National Archives holdings include many significant records relating to their efforts in early aviation.

Agencies such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics are all held within the National Archives nationwide holdings.

In the Event

By Joshua Weiner

If you are sitting in an exit row please identify yourself to a crew member to allow for reseating if you lack the ability to read, speak, or understand the language, or the graphic form, or the ability to understand oral crew commands in the language specified. You maybe understand this but will you understand how to comply with these instructions, the instructions of our crew, who are fully authorized, and all the illuminated signs posted throughout the cabin?  Please locate them now.

If you are sitting in an exit row and unlikely if needed to perform one or more of the applicable functions then you must de-select yourself because only you know, finally, if you lack sufficient mobility, strength, dexterity to reach, grasp, push, pull, turn, shove, lift out, hold, deposit nearby, maneuver over the seatbacks to the next row objects the size and weight of over-wing window door exits, remove, reach, maintain, balance, stabilize, exit, and assist others.

You may lack capacities, have conditions, or be otherwise compromised, for example if you are traveling with a pet container that contains a service animal or emotional support animal. You may feel yourself supportive, and of course that’s good, super, if you can perform the functions: locate, recognize, comprehend, operate, assess, follow, stow, secure, pass expeditiously, deploy, select, but most of all you need to want to, and if you do not no reason need be given, because what reason is there to not want to help on this long flight should something go wrong, terribly, obviously, or subtly, as when you ask for water and no water arrives then you haven’t been heard, Wilbur is lost to the frise aileron, the flight cannot in your mind continue, I mean you cannot adjust the airflow, temperature, cargo storage space is limited to what it is, there’s no room for more.

But why isn’t there? says Orville. Space is infinite, the limits of the plane are inside us as we are inside nowhere luggage shifting around the bags inside bags making, in fact, more room: ‘clarification through expansion’ writes the soul in paraphrase, and even as you make a very short turn, you never feel the sensation of being thrownbut find yourself facing where you started from. The objects on the ground seem to be moving fasterthough you perceive no change in the force of the wind on your face. You know then you are traveling with the wind, the capacity of the ordinary opening beyond belief.

If you put your hand to the window now you feel the deep cold out there where no one is no one wants to be or can be even and this we know before experience and the expertise of those who learn from manuals you’ve never held, never located, recognized, assessed, or followed. You may think that to help anyone you must be with no one that requires your care you must be willing to do all of these things by yourself and without harming yourself to be able to reach up, sideways, and down.

But your condition is not the event of an evacuation, but rather the capacities you lack to be an emotional animal going somewhere a great distance, past every echelon, to a place without command; an elevation, a knowledge, a knack tuning the instrument to its final pitch & yaw.  When you look out the window what do you see?  The plane is probably flying level. But should the pilot find himself unable, or you do, you can take control by reaching over and holding the yoke in such a manner that miniature wings in the indicator stay parallel with the artificial horizon.  Pulling back will send you higher where feeling becomes pronounced. That’s okay, lift should be equal, the door won’t open even if you yank on it due to the pressure. Soon enough however, but not too soon; dream flowers drawn by moving veils is power (though naught be fairer than a dying nebula). With time you understand, there are stars in the universe cold enough to be touched by the human hand.


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