For Frank Eugene Corder, life took a turn for the worse in 1993, around the time the truck driver was fired for reasons unknown. That April, Corder was arrested for theft. Another arrest that October, this time on illegal substance charges, led to a 90-day sentence to a drug rehab center.
The following August, Corder’s third wife Lydia left the room the couple shared at Keyser’s Motel in Aberdeen, Maryland, never to return.
It’s impossible to know what was on the man’s mind. Perhaps he was bent on suicide. Maybe he wanted nothing more than a publicity stunt. Like the time that German kid flew his Cessna from Helsinki to Red Square back in 1987, and embarrassed the Soviet surveillance state.
In the small hours of September 11, 1994, Frank Corder stole a single-engine Cessna 150L aircraft. Fewer than 24 hours later, he crashed the thing into the White House.
The wreck was a national media event at the time, reported as an assassination attempt on President Clinton, or possibly a terrorist attack. It was most likely, neither.
By this time, Corder’s personal problems were out of control. This was one man’s suicide, performed in a manner that got himself a measure of fame on the way out. President Clinton wasn’t even there. At the time, there were ongoing renovations to the White House. He was in residence at the Blair House.
Frank Corder’s death was the only fatality recorded in the incident, but there was a second, that of a Magnolia tree, planted by President Andrew Jackson.
While those were the only two killed in the wreck, there must have been damage done to more than a few professional reputations. I don’t believe anyone ever explained how a severely intoxicated man, piloting a slow, low altitude single engine aircraft, could have gotten past the vaunted air space defenses surrounding Washington DC. Let alone crashing the thing into the White House.
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