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Family touched by kindness of others Finds solace in hugs and solidarity

Fifty victims. Fifty families -- each facing the same unimaginable loss.

As the whirlwind of shock and anguish gives way to mourning, the families and loved ones of those lost in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 are finding comfort in knowing they are not alone in their heartbreak.

"Very rarely, you can look someone in the eye and say, 'I know exactly what you're going through,' " said Mike Quimby, 36, whose father-in-law, Brad S. Green Sr., was aboard the doomed turboprop. "And there's 49 other people and their families, and we can say, 'We know exactly what you're going through and we're going to go through it together.' "

His wife, and Green's daughter, Jennifer, 27, said she has found a sliver of solace in "hugging other people and saying I know what it's like to lose your daddy, because I lost my dad."

Brad Green's family met with reporters Tuesday afternoon at Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church in Clarence -- where Green and his wife, Sharon, worshipped -- to share their memories and their grief.

They also offered a glimpse into what it's been like for the loved ones of those who perished in the Thursday night crash in Clarence Center.

Green, 53, of Clarence, was a district manager for Kraft Foods. He had been away at a four-day business meeting in Newark and was on his way home Thursday night.

Green wasn't even supposed to be on that plane, his family said.

"He told us they couldn't get on the flight they wanted and they had to wait for something else," Sharon Green said. He was originally scheduled to fly on another airline. "That's when they must have gotten onto Continental."

A friend of Brad S. Green Jr., 25, alerted the family to the crash.

"We put on the TV and we saw the fire," Sharon Green said. "I was just hoping, 'Dear Lord, it's not today, is it? It's not his homegoing is it?' Then we heard there were other flights in the air that could be his from Newark. And you just cling on.' "

They piled into their car and drove over to the Clarence Town Hall, which had become the command center for the crash. They were then sent to the airport, where they filled out paperwork, and eventually were sent home. At 2 a.m., they received a phone call confirming that Green had indeed been a passenger on the downed plane.

The man who was the rock of the Green family -- a deeply religious and family-oriented man who was nicknamed "Mr. Wonderful" for his ability to fix just about anything, who was his wife's best friend and constant companion for everything from grocery shopping to trips to Tim Hortons and who was his son's fishing and hunting buddy -- was gone.

Grief-stricken and in a daze, the Green family, like all of the other families, was brought to the Indigo Hotel in Amherst, where they met with representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board as well as Continental Airlines.

The NTSB gave the families special briefings, often three a day, and the families also met privately with representatives from the agency and the airline.

The Green family has been overwhelmed by the kindness and attention they have received. They said three Continental reps have been assigned just to attend to their needs.

"They are the most loving people, the most caring, wonderful people that we could ever hope to be working with us as a family," Sharon Green said of both the NTSB and airline workers.

"It's hard to think right now," said Jennifer Green Quimby, 27. "It's nice to have other people thinking for you. We're not processing things."

The Greens, like many of the other families, have spent many hours each day at the hotel. "That's our home away from home," Quimby said. "We spend almost as much time there as we do at [the Greens'] home . . . It's a safe haven. We feel protected and just loved."

They also have been moved by the enormous public outpouring since the crash.

"I've never been loved on by so many," Sharon Green said. "It's just God working through the hearts and souls of so many people."

At Tuesday morning's briefing, the Greens were touched when they found their briefing room was decorated with dozens of Valentines handmade by local school children.

"We could go up and see each one, how their little hearts are breaking for us," Sharon Green said.

At lunchtime, the family went out to a restaurant with their Continental representatives. The manager got wind of who the family was and insisted that the meal was on the house.

"There just seems to be a lot of hospitality," Quimby said.

The Greens were grateful for the chance to visit the crash site Monday in a special trip arranged for the families and their friends.

They said the ride in the chartered buses from the hotel to the site was a somber and reverent one. Jennifer Green Quimby was struck by how many people had come for each victim. "You realize how the people on the plane were so connected," she said. "The groups on the bus were in groups of 10, 11. We were nine."

The Greens noted that the scene of the crash was just a block from Marty's Restaurant, where Brad Green went at least once a day for coffee as he worked his two cell phones and laptop.

Sharon Green said when she got to the place where her husband died, all she could do was get down on her knees and pray.

Brad Green Jr. said he was surprised by how big the crash site seemed. "It looked so much bigger than in the media,' " he said.

But at the same time, he was struck at how limited the damage was. The aircraft struck just one house and slightly damaged two others.

Jennifer Green Quimby said she couldn't help but feel a higher power had shielded as much of the neighborhood as possible from destruction.

The Greens didn't walk around the site. They stayed in one spot as they took in the moment. They're not sure what other families did.

"It's not a thing where you look around to see what others are doing," Sharon Green said. "It's a time of privacy in a large group, if that makes any sense."

Now, the Greens are planning a memorial service for Brad Green Sr. It will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Eastern Hills Wesleyan.

They hadn't received any word about his body as of Tuesday afternoon, so they haven't been able to make burial plans yet.

Sharon Green said she can't even talk about how to deal with not knowing what has happened to her husband's remains. "There aren't any words for that," she said.

They had heard that one victim had been positively identified by the medical examiner so far.

But Sharon Green said she understands that the process is difficult and will take time.

"They are treating everything with tenderness and respect," she said. "You wouldn't want haste."

Jennifer Quimby Green agreed. "They know they are our loved one," she said. "They are honoring them."

e-mail: mbecker@buffnews.com

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