On the morning of March 31, 1931, TWA Flight 599, en route from Kansas City to Los Angeles, fell out of the sky over the Flint Hills of central Kansas, near the community of Bazaar. Farmers on the ground reported hearing a bang before the right wing snapped off, sending the plane into a dive. All eight people on board were killed in the crash, five of them thrown from the fuselage during the descent, the bodies landing in the pastures in a neat row. Among the dead was Knute Rockne, Notre Dame's football coach, who was headed to Los Angeles to assist with the production of the upcoming film The Spirit of Notre Dame.
Rockne was 43. He was already the caretaker of his own mythology and that of his football program. Jerry Brondfield, in his book Rockne: The Coach, The Man, The Legend, described the impact of Rockne's death on American culture in terms Rockne would've appreciated:
Until Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in April 1945, fourteen years later, there simply wasn't a funeral in American history that produced as much emotional impact as the funeral of Knute Rockne in April 1931.