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PG Columnists

Let's find city's missing pieces

Monday, July 12, 1999

By Brian O'Neill

You know these must be flush times if we're finally going to be fishing that B-25 out of the Monongahela.

The plane has been under water longer than I've been above ground, and in its 43 years as a catfish motel it has provided fodder for no small number of conspiracy theorists.

Was it carrying an atom bomb? Was it carrying biological weapons? Did the government secretly drag the plane from the Mon that very night, whisking away its secrets forever?

The B-25 Recovery Group might never be able to answer all of these questions. But Robert Shema, of the North Hills, the project's operations director, does not appear to go in for the conspiracy theories that have circled this plane for decades.

"This aircraft simply ran out of gas," Shema says.

So much for the movie rights. There's no way Leonardo DiCaprio plays a pilot who simply forgot to fill up, particularly not in 1956, when service stations were offering all sorts of premiums.

Anyway, the recovery group hopes there will be some aluminum from the plane fuselage left, though it may have dissolved by now.

My concern is that the team will dredge up the fuselage and lose it when they leave it out to dry. It just takes one guy with a shopping cart to snatch your aluminum, and those guys who pick up cans have deceptive speed. You'd be surprised.

Still, if we are to see this great mystery of Pittsburgh unraveled, or at least dried off, then perhaps it is time to fashion a wish list of other baffling Burghisms that a discovery team might tackle.

Not all the stuff is at the bottom of the Mon, necessarily. But there are items for which thrill seekers and treasure hunters might look.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who, driving down Bigelow Boulevard past The French Fry in Frank Curto Park, has wondered whatever became of the Burger and Shake. No one, not even a sculptor, can stop after one fry. Has anyone checked the Allegheny below?

Where is Plan C?

What happened to all the business expansion plans that did not depend on tax breaks from city hall? Legend has it that they once were common in this town.

What did we do with Lower St. Clair?

If it's true what I read in Reader's Digest that people who keep their cars for more than 10 years wind up being hundreds of thousands of dollars richer than their neighbors who trade cars in every three or four years, where's my money?

Where is the demand for a new stadium from the Riverhounds soccer team?

Where are the missing customers from the Downtown Lazarus?

Where is the Pittsburgh stock boom?

What did we do with East Mifflin?

Whatever happened to the female welders of yesteryear who would unwind after work at the steel mill by showering clothed while gyrating on stage in workingman's bars? Or did that only happen in "Flashdance"?

Finally, can we launch a search for the verb "to be"?

It turns up missing in this town all the time and, though this has a certain colloquial charm, if we can clean 43-year-old bomber debris from the Mon, then surely we can clean up grammar that needs fixed.

Brian O'Neill's e-mail address is boneill@post-gazette.com.

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