Friday, 17 July 2015

Remembering The Victims of Flight 800

Aaron Burden
* Posted on Jon Bear's behalf 

July 17, 1996 is a day that lives deeply in my memory and something I recall this time every year with a mixed degree of sadness and of hope. My sadness is in the reminder of the pain suffered by the families of 230 victims who lost their lives off the shores of Center Moriches, Long Island, New York that day. The flight they were on to Europe had a catastrophic explosion in an empty fuel tank which brought the plane down mere miles away from where I lived at the time in Mastic, New York. Particularly of note to the media was the story of a group of high school students from Montoursville, PA who were headed to France with some chaperons who perished in the crash. In 1996 I was attending college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, not far from Montoursville and some of the students I went to the college with were graduates of the high school.

On the day of the crash my mother, twin brother and I were returning home from a trip to New York City when we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in the town of Shirley or Mastic and heard numerous fire trucks and police cars zip past. The cashier at the Dunkin Donuts told us what had happened.

My memory of that day sticks with me forever, not because I knew any of the people on board of have ever met any of the family members effected by that tragedy, but because of a link that I had to that day, July 17, six years earlier in 1990. July 17, 1990 was the day that I was hit by a car when riding my bicycle home from my friend Mark's house after having gone swimming. While I broke my leg and bumped my head during the accident I was fortunate enough to live and recover fully from my injuries. My family was spared the sense of loss and heartache that six years to the day later befell the many families and friends who lost loved ones on Flight 800. My heart bleeds for those families/friends and I have never taken the opportunity to express that to any of them.

I feel a kind of connection to them because of the difficulty that befell me on July 17 and the fact that the crash happened on the same day six years later very close to my home. I have been to the memorial on Smith Point Beach in Shirley New York and it's a moving tribute to the lives lost that day.

My hope comes from family and friends who survived and have to live with that loss of their loved ones each and every day that passes and each July 17th that passes. Many of those people have urged others to participate in Acts of Kindness on July 17th each year, in memory of their loved ones. It's a wonderful testament to the power of people and their capacity for love in the face of tremendous suffering and loss. By sharing their story here I hope that it might resonate with a few of our readers and might give us all pause to think about them and do a simple, random act of kindness on this day each year.

It's a small way to honor those who passed, which perhaps has the chance to bring a smile or brighten the day of someone who is down, and thereby reflect the light and brightness and joy that those who passed away brought to so many people while they graced our lives. They could be our brothers, our sisters, our parents or even us. None of us know if or when or how we might be touched by tragedy. Despair and Grief are understandable and expected. But Love and Caring and Kindness are the legacy of so many who were lost.

I am so thankful for each and every day I have with the people I love. Those I have lost and even those I still have are best remembered in their laughs and smiles, in their hugs and kisses, and in their joy and love. I wish to say a truly heart felt thank you to the families and friends of the flight 800 victims for their reminder to me each year of how precious and valuable those moments are. Those lost are not lives to be lamented and forgotten. But the lives of wonderful people who are to be celebrated and remembered in kindness and love. 

1 comment:

  1. You've told me this story before and it always makes me contemplative. While the small town mourns their tragic event, it's sort of forgotten by the rest of the world. I think it's nice that the loss lives are honoured through acts of kindness. The memorials that the high school put up are lovely.


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