Share this article

print logo

Put a simple memorial at the crash site

The memorial services continue. The funerals have begun. The dead are being identified and laid to rest.

Family, friends and community are mourning the 50 people -- most of them from this area -- who perished in the crash of Flight 3407. The plane came down at 6038 Long St., obliterating the home of Doug and Karen Wielinski, killing Doug.

After the dead have been memorialized, we need -- at an appropriate time -- to memorialize the site. In terms of the loss of humanity, this was the worst disaster to afflict this area in memory. The third of an acre in Clarence Center where the plane hit is sacred ground.

It seems to me that the most appropriate memorial would be a simple marker and something along the lines of a community garden. Anything more than that, and it threatens to turn a quiet street into a destination. Anything less than that, and we fail to honor the dead.

Other people no doubt have other ideas. In this case, the wishes of some people carry more weight than those of others. Leading the list is the Wielinski family, who own the property; their neighbors; and the families of the victims.

Right now, all of those folks have more pressing matters to deal with. We need to let them deal with them. But already there is a petition drive aimed at building the Wielinskis a new home, and talk of what should eventually be done with the site.

Scott Bylewski, the Clarence town supervisor, said Thursday that the family does not want another home built there.

What about a possible memorial at the site?

"There's been talk about a lot of things," Bylewski replied. "I want to wait and hear back from the family. When they're ready, we'll have that conversation."

That sounds right. The Wielinskis lost a husband and father, a home and all of their possessions. They have a thousand things to deal with, ranging from insurance reimbursement to deciding where to live. They need time, and space -- as do the families and friends of the victims.

We do not want to get ahead of ourselves. Nor do we want to end up dishonoring the dead.

Seven years ago, a plane crash took 265 lives and obliterated a row of houses in Queens. The woman living in one of the houses, who lost her husband, told WBEN radio that she moved elsewhere in the neighborhood and sold the land. As odd as it sounds, houses were built and people live on the site where 265 people perished.

Granted, it happened in the midst of a housing boom in a high-demand area. But I think there is something unsettling about the idea of people living at the site of a monumental tragedy. It sounds to me like the stuff of a Stephen King novel. I know that I would have trouble sleeping at night. My guess is this is not what most people want to happen here. Putting a house or a building on this site seems sacrilegious to me.

Unlike with the World Trade Center attack, there is no larger issue in this tragedy. The 50 people who died here were victims of a horrid accident, not casualties of a terrorist attack. My sense is that there is no rationale for a large memorial, or for anything much beyond a simple marker -- for philosophical as well as practical reasons.

The site is not in the middle of a bustling city. I doubt that most neighbors want an iconic structure that would draw a steady stream of visitors. Still, there needs to be something to honor the memories of the 50 people whose lives ended here.

We need to go slowly and step lightly. More time needs to pass before discussions start and decisions are made. But, at some point, we need to figure out how we, the living, can best memorialize the dead.


There are no comments - be the first to comment