As the eyes of the nation remain on the Clarence Center site where Flight 3407 went down, the town's residents tried to get on with their lives Saturday -- but it wasn't easy, especially since at least four of the 50 victims were Clarence residents.
Steps were being taken to let families who were evacuated near the site of Thursday night's crash into their homes to recover personal belongings, medications and other items. It will be at least a couple more days before they're allowed to permanently return. About a dozen properties were evacuated near the Long Street site immediately after the tragedy occurred. Residents are being escorted into the neighborhood by Erie County sheriff's deputies, but they have to make appointments to do so, said David Bissonette, Clarence's emergency services coordinator.
While the parking lot at Dash's on Main Street was full like most Saturdays, and traffic on Transit Road was thick, many of the effects of the disaster lingered.
Over at the high school on Main Street, members of the Lions Club were setting up for their annual pancake breakfast today, while a pocket of students reflected on the disaster they described as "surreal."
"Between the burning plane, the jet fuel, the house and the woods around it, the smell is all over. It's a mixture of a gas station and a campfire," said Jake Brinkman, a junior at Clarence High, where the flag flew at half-staff Saturday.
"I liked the quote President Obama said: 'It makes you realize the fragility of life,' " said Brinkman. "He's completely right."
His friend, Ryan Mutton, said he was trying to move on. "You can't get so wrapped up in it that you don't want to do life," he said. "I woke up. I thought about it a bit. I checked the news to see if anything else had happened lately, and I came to school because we have work to do."
On nearby Old Goodrich Road, Gary and Karen Wright were joined by Pat Burkard, who lives on Long Street.
"Even though I'm out there doing the things I do everyday, I'll stop in my car and turn the radio off and I'll just say a prayer or whatever," said Karen Wright, a Clarence school district employee."
Burkard said she was watching "Grey's Anatomy" at the time of the crash.
"It's like a twilight zone," said Burkard, who lives 10 houses from the site. "No one can come in, so there are no cars. There's not any people around. It's just quiet."
"A neighbor came screaming out of her house with a baby in her arms," Burkard recalled. "She kept saying her sister was down the street. I took the baby, and she kept running. Within minutes, her husband followed and got the baby. Her sister was all right, although the tail of the plane landed within feet of her side door."
"I couldn't sleep, so I got my little book to do a puzzle, and I listened to the radio all night on my headphones," she said. "At 3 o'clock, somebody knocked on the door, asking if we were OK and if we had seen what direction the plane was flying from."
As Long Street remains off limit, authorities say curiosity seekers were going so far as to follow the woods beside Ransom Creek, which flows behind the crash scene, in the hopes of viewing the scene. To prevent that, police have set up 24-hour posts, according to State Police Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli.
One individual was charged Friday with trespassing by state police. A Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police officer working the perimeter later charged a second individual with disorderly conduct.
Paul R. Brenton, 63, of Clarence Center Road allegedly entered the restricted area and refused to leave. He had to be physically restrained after threatening Officer Karen Skipper, police said. Brenton is scheduled to appear in Clarence Town Court on Feb. 23.
Trooper Troy Bullard arrested Thomas Woodman, 19, of Lakestone Court, Clarence, for trespassing. Bullard found Woodman hiding behind a house on Long Street allegedly videotaping the scene.The Clarence residents known to have died in the crash are: Ellyce Kausner, 24; Jennifer Neil, 34; Ernest West, 54; and Douglas C. Wielinski, 61.
e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com