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Editorial: Avianca Remembered

Michelle Pinto, 
director, Media Relations 
Dept. of Public Relations 
North Shore-LIJ Health System, 
alerted the media about a memorial event to be held at St. Dominic R.C.C.

She wrote, “On Jan. 25, 1990 , through a series of tragic miscommunications and human error, Avianca Flight 052 crashed in Cove Neck…killing 73 people, (passengers and crew).

“On Sunday, Jan. 24, many of the survivors of the crash will be joined by mental health workers and first responders [including our local fire departments as well as Red Cross workers and even Father Kevin Smith who was there as an EMT] at a special commemorative Mass at St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay. The Mass will go from noon till 1 p.m. and then, survivors, led by their elected spokesman, Nestor Zarate, will be joined by mental health workers and first responders in the church’s Community Room.

“This will be a very emotional event, as you can imagine. I understand survivors are flying in from across the USA to be together,” she added.

It was an emotional event. Father Kevin Smith announced the people attending and he included the members of the media. Having covered the events surrounding the Avianca crash, it was a very meaningful comment, to be added to his list.

After the Avianca crash, Joan Imhop of Bayville was with the Red Cross and held a stress management class for volunteers, which this reporter attended. It had been a harrowing experience and so many people in the community were involved. Many are no longer with us. Besides all the fire company members who attended, the Red Cross workers, the mental health workers, and the hospital workers who cared for the survivors for months after the crash.

Father Smith summed up the event quoting from a letter by St. Paul in Corinthians saying we are all one people. Everyone has a purpose and we need every one of us. It was a message of understanding and unity, and he tied it into the work being done today to help the survivors in Haiti. We are all family and need each other to prosper and survive.

We will have our article on the service in the Feb. 4 issue of the Enterprise Pilot. We met with a responder, Caroline Willson, who currently works in Assemblyman Chuck Lavine’s office; and with Margie Lawder, a crash survivor. They told amazing stories of what happened that day in Cove Neck.

After the service, and after time to talk to the media, the group went to the crash site where Jessica Lawder, the daughter of survivor Margie Lawder, said she was leaving a perfect rose in memory of her mother’s “almost fiancé. They loved each other very much,” she said. Ms. Lawder was returning from Columbia with Miguel Olaya, after meeting with his parents, her prospective in-laws. Her life was totally changed that day.

She said since that time, the happiest moment in her life was the birth of her daughter, Jessica. She is in constant pain from the injuries she sustained in the accident.

There are many things we have to be thankful for: good health and good luck are only two of them.