Sticky Notes

“Cuneiform tablets were ancient sticky notes. Complaints about work, neighbors, the mundane.”
My husband loves such declarations. We’re watching Cunk on Earth on a Wednesday night—January 31, 2023, and we’re laughing. It’s a funny show—a fresh take on the Seven Wonders, and more. We’re watching as I’m Googling, for the first time since our honeymoon over 25 years ago, couples who died on TWA Flight 800.
We wanted to leave on Wednesday, but we got a better deal for tickets out of National to JFK to De Gaulle on July 15, 1996. Same flight. Same route. Same plane. Row 17—where the explosion began three days later.
Dad left a sticky note on the paper the morning after the crash to remind my mother that we’d flown out on Monday.
The day the plane went down, we toured the Louvre. I remember riding a Ferris wheel to the apex for the best view of Paris—It was clear enough to see Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Eiffel Tower I would finally climb two visits later. I’m petrified of heights, but that day I was emboldened, very in love, and entranced with the city. The wheel came down, and we returned to the Hotel de Septieme Art. That night, the bartender there lent us his last corkscrew for a picnic behind Notre Dame.
In February of 1998 my husband and I walked the halls of the Corcoran Gallery. I was pregnant with our first daughter. In one room, an exhibit entitled Extra! Extra! Artist Nancy Chun had taken every front page of the New York Times from 1996 and collaged commentary on events over top the print. Over each story about Flight 800, she’d applied, in uneven brush strokes, shades of azure and royal blue. Over the indigo, covering subheads such as “No survivors seen” she painted angels, wisping up. With each day, the panes of blue above the fold grew smaller. On July 22, five days after the crash and a few days before the Centennial Park bombing, the angels, swimming in their patch of blessed paint, only took the upper right corner.
Today, I’m surprised at what I don’t remember—Bob Dole courting republicans who supported reproductive rights—Microsoft making inroads, Tom Dolan winning America’s first gold in the 400 Men’s Medley. “WE’RE BACK” Chunn stamped in black block letter over that one—next to “DON’T TRUST THE WHITE MAN” stamped in red over an article below the fold about a government real estate deal with the Nez Perce Tribe.
The remnants of the plane are a patchwork, a frayed mosaic of iron. The NTSB stored it in a hanger six miles from where I teach. They decommissioned it a year ago, with orders to scan each piece with a laser before recycling the metal.
What I remember—a ring of fire in the ocean we watched on CNN the morning my husband and I caught the train to Florence. The TWA 800 luggage tags reminding us how close we came. What I recall about our flight—it was delayed. The airline gave us ham and cheese sandwiches as we waited. I fell asleep holding my husband’s hand as we lifted off.

Sally Toner is a high school English teacher who has lived in the Washington, DC, area for over twenty years. Her work has previously appeared in Gargoyle as well as in The Delmarva Review, District Lit, Sky Island Journal, and other publications.