Imagine this: you're watching the news, and you see a devastating plane crash. It's killed 50 people, and devastated a whole community. The house the plane crashed into is destroyed. The people being interviewed on the news are people you've never met, but you still feel horrible for them. The schools are closed in the area because of the state of emergency.
Now imagine this plane crashing two miles from your house. Imagine that you know some of the people who were killed, and you know the people whose house was destroyed. Those people on the news, the ones giving testimonials as to what happened? Those are your friends, your neighbors. You have a day off from school, but you would much rather be in school than have this happen. This is what has happened to the students of Clarence.
News spreads fast in a small town: the plane crashed at 10:20 p.m., and by midnight many high schoolers already were praying for the victims of Flight 3407 via Facebook statuses and support groups already set up on the social networking site. Classes were canceled for all Clarence schools Friday because of the state of emergency in the Clarence Center area.
Clarence junior Isabelle Hogan said bluntly she would rather have had school: "You don't ask for things like this to happen. Obviously I would have rather had school."
Many students in the Clarence schools live very close to the crash scene. Long Street is in an area where there are a lot of houses close together. Many were able to walk to the scene right after the crash.
Clarence junior Ryan Mutton on Friday said: "I was there 5 minutes after it happened, and I saw it go down. It was about 10:15 last night and I heard a plane going over. It was nothing unusual because we're on a flight path. Then it started to sound funny, and all of a sudden we heard a 'wump.' It was not what you expected from a plane crash: there was no explosion. At about 10:18 I ran outside. My dad and I hopped in the car and headed over quickly; the crash was only .4 miles from where I live. All I saw was a huge orange glow. It was a massive fireball. We went back home, parked the car and walked back over [to the scene] so we could get a better look. It didn't seem like they were putting water on it because they weren't equipped to do that. It wasn't outright chaos at first because there were no major explosions. For the longest time, people thought it was a small plane because it nosedived and we only saw the tail end of the plane. But it was huge. And devastating."
All around Clarence, the town is struggling to put the pieces of this mystery together. The community is staying strong, as they do in any situation like this, says Kirby Marzec, a 2008 graduate of Clarence High School and a freshman at New York University: "Something like this could have happened to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. It happened to us, and we won't stop until every broken heart, near or far, is mended." Numerous funds have been set up to help families of the victims and the Wielinskis, whose house was demolished in the crash.
Alyssa Frey is a junior at Clarence.