By James “Jamie” Tobias, gift planning officer
On the heels of another tremendous National Philanthropy Day and approaching the season of giving, philanthropy is a very present topic right now. Often philanthropy is an act of celebration in a moment of joy, but sometimes it comes from tragedy, as a way to mourn and heal.
The Orly crash and the events that followed shaped the future of Atlanta. Most of us in this city know this story and its importance but I have been surprised at the number of those who don’t. As Atlanta grows and becomes more transient, I find it is important to reflect on those moments that define us and the city we call home.
On June 3, 1962, 122 passengers perished in a crash at Orly Airport in France. On board were 106 arts patrons on their way home to Atlanta after a tour of art in Europe sponsored by the Atlanta Art Association. At the time it was the worst single plane disaster in history.
Among those onboard the flight were many of Atlanta’s civic and cultural leaders along with members of some of Atlanta’s most prominent families. Several children lost one or both of their parents, shaping many on their future philanthropic journey. Even at a much divided point in the city’s civil rights history, the city came together for a moment to grieve.
Tributes and gifts from all over the world were made to memorialize this tragedy, and ultimately the Atlanta Arts Alliance formed the Memorial Arts Center, now known as the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center. A special relationship with the Louvre Museum was created, opening opportunity for the people of Atlanta to see exhibits they may never have had the opportunity to view. Through philanthropy, this symbol has provided the city a place to celebrate the arts and a way to memorialize those who were lost that tragic day in 1962. It was and is a place to heal and to grow as people and as a city.
Giving can be very personal and often therapeutic. Philanthropy provides opportunity to celebrate and to mourn, to strengthen a program or close the gap of a great need. The act of making a gift can often say as much about ourselves as the organization we give to.
As we reflect on the events that shape our lives and causes that are near and dear to us, there is never a wrong time or a wrong way to think about our own legacies. Whether it be gifts of treasure or the passing on of our life lessons and stories, we hold the power to form a lasting legacy to benefit generations to come.
To learn more about the Orly crash, read “Explosion at Orly: The Disaster that Transformed Atlanta.”