SIOUX CITY (AP) - The statue down by the river shows a little boy, but Spencer Bailey is all grown up.

He was 3 years old on July 19, 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232 crash landed at Sioux Gateway Airport. His mother, Frances, was one of 112 people killed in the crash. Bailey and his older brother, Brandon Bailey, who was 6 at the time, survived.

In the crash's aftermath, Spencer's image became a powerful symbol of the rescue efforts because of a photograph of him being carried away from the crash site by Lt. Col Dennis Nielsen of the 185th Fighter Wing of the Iowa National Guard.

The photo, snapped by a Sioux City Journal photographer, was used across the world. Five years later, it became the basis for a memorial statue erected at the Spirit of Siouxland Memorial in Chris Larsen Park along the Sioux City waterfront.

Today, Bailey, who graduated this year from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., has no memories of the crash. He doesn't talk about it much, either.

Still, he sees it as a "positive learning experience" from which he has grown.

"I think that's also spawned my interest in writing and discovering the experiences of others through writing their stories, particularly journalism," he said. "And also looking at my own life through poetry and fiction, that's been a huge interest to me."

He is particularly interested in journalism these days.

"I'll start and see where that will take me," he said. "I'm looking in a couple of years to pursuing an MFA in either creative writing or creative nonfiction. But that's a few years down the line."

Bailey graduated on May 18 and plans to eventually settle in New York City and hunt for a job in the publishing industry. In the meantime, he and his twin brother, Trent, who was not on the flight, will head to Europe and Asia for a few months.

He hopes to eventually get a job at a magazine that focuses on pop culture, he said.

He has certainly come a long way from the night of the crash. Bailey attended a boarding school in Connecticut, where his interest in writing took off.

A guidance counselor recommended Dickinson because of its strong English program and a new creative writing program.

Once there, though, he found himself drawn to other campus activities. He joined a fraternity and, as a junior, he served as president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

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He was also president of the college's Intrafraternity Council. He also worked for the college magazine and the Office of College Relations.

This summer, he will travel with Trent, a photography major at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Together, they plan to put out a blog about their experiences. Spencer will provide the text, Trent the pictures.

Next year, Brandon Bailey said, he plans to return to Sioux City and the site of the crash for the 20th anniversary. He has seen the statue but not a recent plaque was added with the names of the photographer, sculptor Dale Lamphere and the two subjects.

"It's strange being 22 years old and seeing yourself in a metal statue," he said. "It's something so permanent. And I'm sure often times people go and look at it and they think that I probably passed away. I don't think they probably realize that I'm still alive."


Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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