PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Family members of the Flight 427 victims gathered in Moon Township to honor those they lost Monday night.
The names of the 132 victims were read as a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.”READ MORE: Sheetz Offering Free Coffee, Fizz Drinks To Pitt Students Through August
John Kretz of Homestead who lost his wife Janet in the crash, says he thinks about her all the time still. He says like, “when something nice happens, the thought is always there, like I can’t wait to tell Janet.”
Bill Brown of Dormont lost his brother, Ron. He described Ron as “not only my brother, but a role model and my best friend.”
Blythe Young was 2 years old when her dad, Curt Young, of Oakmont, lost his life in the crash.
She said the anniversary of the crash is hard for her every year, but the support group coming together makes her dad’s loss a little easier to bear. The group will no longer continue to meet as a formal gathering annually, but, some are expected to meet at a cemetery in Sewickley on the anniversary date of the crash.
KDKA’s John Shumway covered the cash that night and in the years since.
He recently returned to the crash site with a woman who lost her father — and listened to the story of one of the first to arrive on the scene that night.
“To me, this place is just beautiful and this is where they left Earth to go to eternity,” said Donna K. Weaver, daughter of crash victim Lee Weaver.
Time has allowed Mother Nature to cover the earthly scars where 132 lives were gone in an instant, including Lee.
“That’s our tree,” Donna said. “I’m pretty sure that’s the one my brother hung my dad’s hat that said No. 1 grandpa on that tree.”
“You felt as if you were invading someone’s privacy,” said Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones.
Jones was a captain with the Aliquippa Fire Department that night, and was the first to walk onto the crash site with Hopewell’s Assistant Chief Ron McMasters, looking for an airliner. Their eyes couldn’t comprehend what they were seeing until they came across a body part.
“And from that point on it was like the veil was lifted,” Jones said. “WE could clearly see everything, a lot of debris.”
And human carnage.
“I had never seen that many at one time, or that level of destruction,” said Jones.READ MORE: Reports Of Illnesses In Songbirds Declining After Mysterious Disease Caused Dozens Of Deaths
Shock turned into action.
“We moved through the area looking for survivors and quickly determined there were no survivors,” said Jones.
That word spread from their fire radios to the TV and radio coverage families were clinging to for any word.
“We had been pacing and looking out the back deck waiting for the headlights to come into the neighborhood, the garage door opener, just holding onto hope,” said Donna.
Those hopes would not be realized. And the families that waited have become the living victims of flight 427.
“I’m shocked that through the worst tragedy that I’ve ever experienced, I was also the recipient of more love than I ever could have imagined could have been a part of my life,” said Donna.
Together, the 427 families accomplished change so families come first in airline tragedies and they kept the pressure on and worked with the NTSB to make sure the 737 issues were dealt with worldwide.
And now after 20 years they’re fighting for and demanding answers.
Darryl Jones never experienced the Post Traumatic Stress other first responders did.
“But it did change my life,” he said.
In a very spiritual way, born out of one early moment when he found himself in the middle of the debris and alone, the nearest person 50 to 60 feet away.
“And it got quiet and just for a little bit, I thought I heard somebody screaming,” Jones said. “A large group of people screaming and I looked around and nobody seemed to be reacting to it, so I figured it was just me.”
It’s a moment he’s accepted he’ll never understand.
“There’s all sorts of amazing stories behind the scenes of our tragedy,” Donna said. “The tragedy gets the press, but there are some heart-warming details that go along with it.”
Some families have drifted away from anniversaries and remembrances, but Donna looks forward to seeing her 427 family. And while time has made it easier, there are still triggers that remind her of her dad and hurt.
“When I see an older couple walking hand-in-hand,” she said. “That gets me the most. I hurt for my mother more than anything. I hurt for me and my brother and sister-in-law and the kids who didn’t get to know this incredible pop pop that they had. But I hurt the most for my mom.”MORE NEWS: Police Investigating Death Of Woman Found In Stowe Twp.
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