"Oh, the humanity!" It was 80 years ago Saturday that a radio announcer from Chicago stood at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey and uttered those words into a microphone as the German airship burst into flames, killing 35 of the 97 people on board and one on the ground. Word went out as AP reporter Robert Okin telegraphed the news one minute later, according to AP Archives. But Herb Morrison's words were not heard live that day in 1937, nor were they linked to the film shot by four newsreel crews on the scene. Yet the Hindenburg became the first multimedia air disaster of the 20th century, and Morrison made broadcast history. "It's burst into flames!" he shouted. "It's fire, and it's crashing!"
The recording, along with the newsreel, were played Friday at a dinner held by the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society. The group, which has more than 200 members, preserves airship history. President Carl Jablonski says time has not diminished interest in the Hindenburg. "Younger people are drawn to it after seeing the footage and hearing the broadcast on the Internet," he says. The group plans to gather on Saturday night at the crash site to lay wreaths in memory of those who died aboard the Hindenburg and for those in the military who have given their lives. "We're honoring people who lost their lives as pioneers who made today's air travel what it is," Jablonski says. (Read more Hindenburg stories.)