Swissair crash memorial marks 5th anniversary
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
BAYSWATER, N.S.-- A flutist's mournful tune rose over Nova Scotia's south shore Tuesday as dozens of people paid tribute to those killed five years ago when Swissair Flight 111 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.
Relatives and friends carrying flowers filed toward a stone monument in this shoreline community, just 11 kilometres from the crash site.
Many left small bouquets of white daisies and roses at the base of the monument that bears the names of all 229 people who perished Sept. 2, 1998.
The roar of a Sea King helicopter could be heard overhead as the crew dropped a single wreath in the water.
``We gather today in the presence of God to remember our loved ones, to acknowledge the emptiness we continue to feel because of their absence, to give thanks for their lives and to look forward to the future with hope,'' Padre John O'Donnell told the small group.
Miles Gerety, who lost his brother Pierce in the accident, said he took comfort from the beautiful setting and the people who opened their homes to anguished relatives in the days after the crash.
``Pierce would have loved this place and we love it,'' Gerety told CBC Newsworld following the 40-minute service. ``I didn't think places like this exist.''
Officials expected this to be the last organized service at the monument, one of two marking the tragedy. Several families have said they are trying to move on and don't feel the need to visit the area every year.
The Transportation Safety Board released its final report into the accident in March. The board concluded that wiring linked to an entertainment system combined with highly flammable insulation to feed a fire that crippled the jet's electrical system.
The agency didn't identify the exact source of the fire. But it concluded it involved wiring related to the entertainment system, which was improperly installed.
The plane was en route to Geneva from New York when smoke filled the cockpit, prompting the pilots to dump fuel over St. Margaret's Bay before attempting an emergency landing in Halifax.
They didn't make it. The plane was in the midst of a steep turn when it slammed into the ocean at 10:31 p.m. local time.
People from various communities that line this picturesque coast rushed to the scene hoping to recover survivors. But it became clear as their fishing boats moved through a huge debris field of shattered remains that nobody had survived the crash.
Rabbi David Ellis said that the memorial helped unite people from around the world who might otherwise be divided by politics or religion.
``When we come to an event like this we see that we share much of the very same language, we have much of the same feelings,'' Ellis told the sombre crowd before a moment of silence. ``Let us declare how holy this day is, how awe-inspiring.''
I just wanted to issue this warning to any family members visiting the memorial sites in the future. There was a robbery of some valuables left in a rental car parked near the Indian Harbour memorial site the day after the 5th anniversary of the swissair 111 crash. I believe this has happened before so you should lock your car and not leave anything of value behind while visiting the sites. The criminals who were apprehended were using some fairly sophisticated tools for the break-in.
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