Weekly Feature

2017-10-04 / Front Page

Flight 3407 civic memorial to be unveiled at library

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

After a memorial to the February 2009 crash of Flight 3407 was established on Long Street in Clarence Center it became a hub of emotional catharsis for families and friends of the victims.

The memorial, which was transferred to the ownership of the town in 2014, functioned effectively as a sacred place for loved ones to mourn. But Mike Powers, president of Remember Flight 3407 Inc., and the group’s board of directors believed that Clarence also needed a more cerebral, educational monument to a significant moment in the town’s historical record.

The result is a multifaceted memorial at the Clarence Public Library that includes three major components: a four-sided, touch-screen kiosk recounting the timeline of the crash, as well as its aftermath and the effects on aviation safety; 51 bricks placed outside the library’s north-facing window — each inscribed with the name of a victim; and 51 trees purchased through the Clarence arboretum with the names of the victims on plaques beneath each tree.

“What we wanted to do all along is to make this informational,” said Powers. “We’ve got Long Street, which is a place for the families to go to remember this tragedy, and that’s sacred ground. But there’s also a story behind the tragedy that’s historical in nature.”

The comprehensive memorial will be unveiled at the library at noon Saturday, Oct. 7, following the ninth annual Flight 3407 Memorial 5K Race, which will begin at 9 a.m.

Powers, a town justice in Clarence, in addition to his post with Remember Flight 3407 Inc., the nonprofit organization that has guided the creation of the memorial, worked closely with Erie County Historian Doug Kohler to ensure that the historical narrative and significance of the Flight 3407 crash was well-documented and emphasized at the new memorial.

“Doug has been phenomenal,” Powers said. “He dug up the history. He dug up photos. He communicated with the families.”

Remember Flight 3407 Inc. enlisted the expertise of Hadley Exhibits when designing the kiosk, which Powers says is “the nerve center” of the new memorial. Hadley has produced exhibits for museums, trade shows, corporate facilities and visitor centers for more than 60 years.

Located in the library’s back reading room, the hi-tech kiosk includes biographies for each of the 51 crash victims in addition to an extensively detailed timeline of events related to the tragedy. Everything from the tireless efforts of the first responders to the debate on airline safety, a topic that many of the family members of the victims have dedicated their lives to dictating, will be available for residents to peruse on the kiosk.

“The kiosk not only records what happened historically,” said Powers. “It also provides a kiosk for people to learn more about what happened and for the family members to further memorialize their loved ones.”

The Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash sent shock waves across the aviation industry and sparked a debate about the nature of airline safety and the adequacy of commercial pilot training.

The Flight 3407 families’ campaign on behalf of reform, culminated in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which included a number of provisions intended to raise the bar for pilot training. Among them is a requirement that both pilots and copilots have 1,500 hours of flight experience before flying a commercial airliner.

The top of the kiosk at the library will be adorned with 51 copper flowers, sculpted by Donna Ioviero, owner of Clear Lights Studio & Garden of Earthly Delights.

The kiosk is complemented by the 51 bricks and trees just outside the library’s walls, which Powers says adds a meditative component to the memorial that allows residents to step out of the library into a quiet area surrounded by nature. A bench will also be installed near the 51 bricks, though it won’t appear at Saturday’s dedication.

The existing trees purchased through the town arboretum offered their own logistical challenges, as Powers and Remember Flight 3407 Inc. worked to keep together those memorializing victims of the same family or friend group.

While the library’s new memorial will feature a number of influences from its counterpart on Long Street, one of the more memorable aspects of the Long Street memorial will not be part of the Town Hall campus. The notes that family members of the victims wrote and left to their deceased loved ones at the crash site were burned and buried at the site during a private ceremony that Powers helped to organize and lead.

“Those are something no one will ever see, nor should they.”

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