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The 1960s Handbook takes a closer look at the cultural references that appear in each week's episode of Mad Men.
March 1, 1962 was a day of intense horror and immense celebration for New York City. On that momentous Thursday morning, an American Airlines flight crashed on takeoff from Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport), killing all 95 passengers and crew aboard. At the same moment, a roaring crowd of four million people waited enthusiastically along Broadway to honor astronaut John Glenn with a ticker-tape parade for becoming the first American to orbit the Earth.
The Boeing 707 that plunged into Jamaica Bay that day was considered "the latest in jetliners and the pride of American Airlines," according to Time magazine. The airplane crash was the worst tragedy until then involving a single plane in the history of U.S. commercial aviation. However, as news of the calamity spread through the throngs of parade-goers, the disaster did not appear "to quell the enthusiasm of the public reception" for Glenn, the New York Times reported. "It seemed a distant event, perhaps half rumor, in the face of the immediate, tangible drama of the man who had been thrust into space."
The parade, which showered a record 3,474 tons of confetti and ticker tape upon the future U.S. senator, lauded Glenn as the newest American hero and the man who put the country back into the space race with the Russians. Glenn said as much at the City Hall ceremony after the parade, proclaiming, "We feel that perhaps the efforts we're engaged in do really begin a new space era. My flight was but one step in this long progress."