Memorial Services Held Week After Aeromexico Crash Scars Neighborhood
CERRITOS, Calif. (AP) _ About 1,000 people gathered Sunday for a memorial service honoring the dozens who died when the collision of a jetliner and a small airplane turned part of their quiet suburb into a blazing inferno.
″Death always seems to happen to the other person or takes place in another neighborhood,″ said the Rev. Timothy O’Connell, pastor of St. Linus Roman Catholic Church in neighboring Norwalk.
″Last Sunday it took place in our neighborhood and we’re painfully aware of it.″
Area residents, many of whom knew victims of the disaster, gathered for a 90-minute program of hymns and prayers in the Cerritos College gym, a few miles from where the Aeromexico DC-9 plunged to the ground Aug. 30.
The crash killed all 64 aboard, the three people aboard the single-engine Piper PA-28. Authorities have said that up to 24 people on the ground may have been killed. Of the 29 bodies identified so far, eight were killed in their homes.
″It has left us stunned because the ripple effect of this accident will go on for years,″ said O’Connell.
Clergymen from 12 churches participated in the service, called ″Celebration of Life: Remembrance and Renewal.″
Mourners dabbed wet eyes with handkerchiefs while other fanned themselves in the heat as the speakers addressed them from a pulpit decked with flowers and flanked by the flags of Mexico and the United States.
Cerritos Mayor Don Knabe thanked the county, surrounding cities, the Red Cross, federal agencies and other parties for their assistance. But he emphasized that the assistance must continue over and above establishing blame for the accident.
″Today and in the future, it is not our purpose to blame, accuse or insinuate,″ he said, advising residents ″to rally around, to reach out and help someone.″
Lynn Olson, 38, who lives two streets away from the disaster site, said she felt very lucky to be alive.
″It came too close to me and my kids,″ said the mother of six. ″I feel so bad for people who lost their little ones. I think it’s a miracle we’re still here.″
″We have friends killed,″ Diana Griffin, 42, who moved out of the neighborhood in July, said before the service. ″I feel like I had to be here. It’s the least I could do.″
Phyllis Dade, 48, who lives only two blocks from where the jetliner hit, said her neighbors all had a common feeling of devastation.
″We all talk,″ she said. ″It feels like the neighborhood’s been violated. Everybody says the same thing. It helps to talk.″
Earlier, about 200 people attended a special Mass earlier at St. Linus Roman Catholic church.
Two parish members were on the jet and another parishoner is believed to have been killed on the ground. In a letter read at the Mass, Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony requested prayers for the victims and their families.
On Saturday, the city continued its effort to remove the black scar left by the jetliner. The other plane crashed in a vacant schoolyard.
Four bulldozers worked quickly to demolish the remains of nine homes classified as 90 percent destroyed. The rubble was loaded onto trucks and carted away as groups of curious people looked on.
Neighbors have grown tired of the sightseers.
″It’s the people who come around that keep reminding us of what happened here,″ said Patty Davis, 20, who lives near several destroyed homes. ″We don’t need to be reminded.″
″These people don’t belong here,″ said Renee Cole, 16, who lives about a block from the crash site. ″I was personal friends of two of the people who died and I just think this is sick. It’s disgusting. I wish they’d all just leave.″