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Swissair families mark 10th anniversary of the crash'We have returned and we feel like we're at home'
by Lisa Brown
Edith Saugy tenderly touches her daughter's name on the Bayswater memorial to the victims of Swissair Flight 111 following the September 2 service marking the 10th anniversary of the crash. Crystel Saugy was just 20 when the jet plunged into the Atlantic off the coast.
BAYSWATER - Tears and hugs again marked the burial site of the victims of Swissair Flight 111 September 2 as family members joined Nova Scotians to mark the 10th anniversary of the crash.
More than 100 people crowded the Bayswater memorial site for the service.
For many of the victims' relatives, the pain of their loss clearly continues a decade later. Their grief was etched on their faces, as some wiped away tears, while others fought to hold them at bay.
Some brought flowers and mementoes to lay at the base of the memorial, which is etched with the names of the 229 men, women and children who died on September 2, 1998, when the jet plunged into the waters of St. Margarets Bay. Others carefully selected blooms from the buckets of flowers provided by organizers.
Many, like Swiss resident Edith Saugy who lost her 20-year-old daughter, Crystel, paused to gently touch a loved one's name, creating an intimate moment in the midst of the crowd.
In English and in French, from the United States and Europe, they prayed together and sang together just a few feet away from the grass-covered plot where the remains of their loved ones lie buried. Between the memorial and the sea, the final resting place remained still, cordoned off with granite posts and chains.
"Above all, we've come here today to acknowledge the infinite value of the lives of those whose names are inscribed on the wall behind me. Each and every name on this wall has a story behind it, a story written by somebody who knew, in their own unique ways, the joys and the pains, the triumphs and the disappointments, the love and the anguish of being a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a cousin, or a friend," said John O'Donnell of the Interfaith Council of Halifax.
"We gather here not only as families, but as friends," he added. "As I look out in the crowd, I see many people from the local communities … I also see in our midst representatives of various organizations that did what they could 10 years ago to help to recover the people on Swissair Flight 111, people whose stories will in some ways always be connected to the stories of the families gathered here - so many stories, so many lives changed forever."
Flight 111 was en route from New York to Geneva when it crashed into the ocean, killing everyone on board. The victims came from 15 countries and included two Canadians.
The four-and-a-half-year investigation into the crash determined that the MD-11 was downed when wires arced, starting a fire in a hidden area of the cockpit ceiling which spread through the plane's flammable insulation.
Once the hidden fire began, the passengers and crew had no chance of survival.
But the Swissair families remain forever grateful to those who responded, those who searched in vain for survivors in the hours after the crash and those who worked tirelessly on the recovery operation in the months that followed.
David Wilkins, who lost his 19-year-old son, Monte, on Flight 111, spoke on behalf of the families again thanking the people of Nova Scotia for their aid and support, both in 1998 and in the years since then.
"We have returned and we feel like we're at home," Mr. Wilkins said. "We feel like we've come home because our loved ones are here with you. We want to just thank you for your hearts and your arms to gather those of us who were so devastated by this tragedy, to make us part of your world and part of your lives and part of your caring.
"We just want to go from this place really connected with the realization that you are part of us and we are part of you and that, in sharing this together, we have grown, we have been healed in many ways, we're still very lonely and we still need your loving arms."
posted on 09/09/08
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