I Survived: The Hindenburg Disaster, 1937

Chapter 1

THURSDAY, MAY 6, 1937

7:25 P.M.

LAKEHURST, NEW JERSEY

In seconds, the Hindenburg would explode. The greatest flying machine ever built would burst into flames. It would crash to the ground in a heap of twisted metal and smoldering ash.

Just minutes before, eleven-year-old Hugo Ballard had been standing at the airship’s huge windows. After a three-day journey across the Atlantic, the Hindenburg was about to land.

But then came the massive explosion.

Kaboom!

On the ground, hundreds of people had gathered to watch the landing. Now they stared in horror as the great airship erupted into a massive fireball.

And inside the crippled airship, Hugo was in a fight for his life.

The force of the explosive blast sent him flying back. He landed on the ground with a sickening thud. Frantic people fell on top of him, and he was nearly crushed.

Someone’s heavy shoe kicked his face. An elbow jabbed him in the eye. A knee pressed against his throat, making it impossible to breathe.

He managed to free himself, but now the flames were everywhere. Poisonous black smoke rushed up his nose and down his throat. Tears gushed from his burning eyes. Red-hot drops of molten metal rained down, burning through his clothes and sizzling against his skin.

But Hugo barely noticed the pain. He just wanted to find his parents and his little sister, Gertie. He cried out for them, but his words were smothered by the terrible noises all around—screams of pain and panic, the shattering of glass, the crackle and roar of the flames. People smashed windows and leaped out, their terrified cries echoing as they fell through the fiery sky.

Hugo clawed his way across the floor, gasping for breath. The searing heat blistered his hands and knees.

He could feel the airship falling, falling, falling. Any second it would crash to the ground.

The Hindenburg was doomed.

And so, it seemed, was Hugo.