Whop, whop, whop, whop . . . .
Look at that. Here comes one now.
The third-graders on the summer school field trip stood on their
tiptoes and peered out the windows in the Statue of Liberty's crown,
watching a red, white and blue SK-2 hover over the harbor. The morning
sky was glistening and squeaky-clean, freshly washed of July soot
by an all-night rain. Boarding the ferry, their teacher had told
them to count the methods of transportation that matched the pictures
in their social studies reader. So far they'd found a boat, a train,
a car, a truck, and an airliner gliding toward LaGuardia. And now
this. A helicopter.
Whop, whop, whop.
The kids jostled for position at the windows to watch the plane's
silhouette. Instead of slicing past them, it stood still, like a
humming bird with blurry wings.
Now, they noticed, appearing a bit larger.
The kids pawed each other-Let me see-It's my turn-Stop it,
Jimmy, or I'm gonna tell. Come on, kids, the teacher said, it's
time to go.
Some of the children grabbed the stainless steel hand rail and started
down the staircase while others clung to the brass frames around
the ports. The helicopter raised its nose slightly like a horse
being reined in and, about fifty yards away, made a graceful quarter-turn.
revealing a large open door on the side. A man sat on the floor,
feet dangling, his hands holding a camera.
Crabbing sideways, the helicopter moved closer. The man lifted his
A boy waved at it. Don't do that, Steven, the teacher said, they
might be making a movie.
The sound of the popping blades was lost in the din of a powerful
engine cranking out five thousand revolutions a minute, straining
to keep a ton of metal hanging in the air. The chopper was so close
now they could see the photographer's hair whipping in the wind,
the color of his goggles, the microphone curled in front of his
mouth and the brass clips on his safety harness. With his camera
chest high, he spoke into his microphone and punched the air with
his finger, Move in closer.
Isn't he a little too close? the teacher said.
The helicopter inched sideways, now only twenty yards away. The
kids pressed their foreheads to the glass, entranced with the high-pitched
whine and sight of a huge metal bug actually flying. Looks like
a Commanche, one of them said, speaking of his favorite video game.
Suddenly, a stream of black oil shot out of the engine and puffed
into a swirling cloud in the rotor downdraft. Black mist covered
the chopper's bubble canopy and sprayed the statue's windows, turning
them into light brown filters.
The helicopter made a small jiggling motion, shivered, and rolled
toward the statue so steeply they could see the tops of the rotors,
the feathery yellow circle made by the warning stripes on the blades.
Cool, one of the boys said.
The man in the door dropped his camera and gripped the hook on his
safety harness and tried to scramble backwards into the cabin. His
eyes locked onto the kids' faces.
The teacher screamed. The ear-splitting noise drowned her voice.
The deafening roar was broken by the chunk-ka-chunk sound
of the blades hitting Miss Liberty's left cheek, just below her
forehead where the children stood. Bits of copper and steel shrapnel
exploded into the hollow behind her eyes. Some kids squealed and
ran, others stood and watched without blinking.
The air inside the crown filled with smoke and the high-pitched
sound of an eight hundred horsepower engine stripping the teeth
off its gears as it cranked broken rotors, most of which were already
fluttering in shattered pieces toward the grass.
The kids watched the helicopter nose over and drop out of sight
leaving a trail of steam and smoke like a dying roman candle. It
hit the stone base near Miss Liberty's feet, bounced off, and fell
farther onto the New Hampshire marble platform below, a harmless,
Wow, one of the boys said to his stricken, speechless teacher. I
wanna see this movie! That really looked real!