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My View: Ten years after crash of Flight 3407, looking past the pain

By Karen Wielinski

The 10th anniversary of my husband Doug’s death is drawing near. The anticipation of accepting this reality grew stronger and crept into my head and heart already in the summer, as preparations had begun for a commemoration.

As always, I will share this anniversary with others. My husband and 50 other souls left this life together on Feb. 12, 2009, when Continental Flight 3407 crashed into our home on Long Street in Clarence Center. Ten years is a hallmark anniversary. My usually yearly anticipation is turning into apprehension and anxiety. It will be an emotional roller coaster.

Karen Wielinski

It took me a while to accept the invitation for fellowship that was extended to me by the other 3407 families. I now welcome their support and friendship, but the reason I originally hesitated to join them remains a part of my life. It is so hard to share their pain, while still dealing with my own.

Ten years. It seems impossible. So much has happened in that decade: marriages, births, divorces, and my realization that writing can bring great comfort; a lifetime of events.

I had a good marriage and still embrace the memory of our life together. Perhaps that is why I still wear my wedding rings.

Those rings could definitely be considered a deterrent to possible suitors. I could also wear them as a source of protection, so I won’t be approached.

Recently, I decided it was the right time to remove the rings. The diamond easily came off. The thinness of the band, along with my body heat, had transformed it into a cockeyed circle. The wedding band refused to come off. Perhaps it is not meant to be, I thought.

I gave one final yank and it flew off my finger. I panicked. What if I lost it? But thankfully it settled on the floor. In those few moments, I sobbed. I was miserable without the rings. My attempt to try independence had failed. They returned to my finger after one day.

Karen Wielinski stands at the memorial to the victims of Flight 3407 and the lot where her home stood on Long Street in Clarence Center on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.         (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

I feel I am not alone in this struggle. Being a widow is not easy. I admit that I still feel jealous when I see older couples strolling hand-in-hand, playing with their grandchildren, and enjoying those golden years together. I miss the love and companionship that 30 years of marriage gave me.

Honestly, I do not feel that my refusal to remove my rings is an indication that I am not moving on. I embrace every day that I am given. I am thankful for family and friends who constantly remind me of how wonderful life can be.

Watching my grandchildren grow and become unique individuals provides so much joy in my life, and I am so proud of my daughters who have tackled tragedy with a strength that they never knew they possessed.

I am thankful that memories continue to sustain me and inspire me to write. I remain on a quest to retrieve memories.

Reflecting on this past decade, I have come to the conclusion that I am a survivor, and part of my strength to survive comes from all the years I had with Doug. He gave me the love and assurance that I, too, am unique and special. After all, he chose to share his life with me.

I had a good life with my husband. And, although it certainly is not the life I imagined I would have at this point of my life, I have a good life now, too.

I embrace the vibrancies of both these lives, and look forward to the seasons that will follow. I await the possibilities of what is yet to come.

Karen Wielinski is the author of “One on the Ground,” which recounts the loss of her husband, Doug, in the crash of Continental 3407. Watch The News' Facebook live interview with Wielinski here. 

'That is our house!': Widow recalls Flight 3407 crash

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