|All eyes were on the western sky.|
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But Texas headwinds kicked up down in El Paso. Kansas City would have to wait until daylight. Skywatchers dozed in place. The radio played musical interludes between progress bulletins. It would be sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., said the announcer.
At 9 o'clock the temperature was 70 degrees, the sky hazy-cloudy, laced with smoke from the railyards and factories. Visibility was poor for the thousands now stationed on blankets and rooftops. The two-hour window passed. Then at 9:35 the big whistle blew loud from the Armour packing plant in the stockyards. Three minutes later the nose of a giant emerged from the mist above Southwest Boulevard and Summit street. Then the whole giant, dark gray, three city blocks long, a thousand feet overhead, engines roaring, cruising northeast towards Union Station. Small airplanes circled the giant, appearing to one observer like "mosquitoes buzzing a colossal bumblebee."
The pale disc of the sun briefly managed a few bright shafts, turning the giant silver. From the ground, those with field glasses could make out tiny figures in cabin windows. Large red letters on the silvery sides were clear: Graf Zeppelin.
|The Graf Zeppelin over Union Station, August 28, 1929.|
* * *For three weeks Kansas Citians, like the rest of the world, had been reading about the great journey of the Graf Zeppelin – around the world in record-breaking time. Leaving Lakehurst, New Jersey, on August 8, 1929, the airship had flown across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and Asia, across the Pacific Ocean and half of the United States by August 28, when it broke through clouds above Kansas City. In another day the adventure would end back in Lakehurst. Twenty-one days, five hours, twenty-five minutes, the fastest any humans had circled the globe.
|Two days before the arrival in Kansas City.|
The ship, a German accomplishment, carried forty crew members and a multinational passenger group of twenty, including one woman. Lady Grace Drummond-Hay was a well-known British journalist whose daily dispatches were read in newspapers worldwide. On that Wednesday she wrote:
Kansas City waved us a welcome this morning as we sped overhead and circled about, preparatory to setting our course for Chicago, which will be our turning point and our own special gateway toward the East. A score, it seemed, of welcoming airplanes soared about this giant silver ship, greeting us and photographing from all conceivable angles. It was ten minutes ahead of schedule, at 9:40 o'clock, that we flew over Kansas City, and it was ten minutes later that we left it, to the accompanying sounds of whistles and sirens below.
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The Graf Zeppelin's circle here appeared to center on the three-year-old Liberty Memorial – from Union Station east to about Prospect, south and west over Linwood boulevard, north along Broadway – before it continued downtown, over the Missouri River and vanished again into the clouds.
|Headed north, over the Missouri River.|
As one Kansas Citian later said, “How amazing it was! How altogether incredible! But one short week ago this ship was forging her way across the lonely, unexplored wastes of Siberia.”
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