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Funerals Begin For Montoursville Victims of TWA Explosion

July 25, 1996

MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ A copy of ``Jane Eyre,″ a softball glove and a Pluto doll were laid out in memory of a 16-year-old girl as this small town buried the first of its 21 residents killed aboard TWA Flight 800.

About 200 relatives and friends mourned Monica Cox on Wednesday. She was killed along with 15 other members of the high school French Club and five chaperones in the July 17 explosion over the Atlantic.

Monica was remembered for her artistry and her compassion, but a table at the church held more basic reminders: baby pictures, a copy of the Charlotte Bronte novel and the hospital wristband she wore after she was born.

``She had a social conscience unusual for a young girl her age,″ said the Rev. Stephen McGough of Our Lady Of Lourds Roman Catholic Church. ``She had a humanitarian commitment.″

The previous night, 1,000 people held a memorial service for Carol Fry, the 54-year-old nurse at Montoursville Area High School. Fry’s body has yet to be returned.

This town of just 5,000, about 120 miles northwest of Philadelphia, will hold six more funerals and one more memorial by Sunday.

Jeff Bohlin has yet to schedule a funeral for his 15-year-old daughter, Michelle, whose body was identified with the help of DNA from his blood and fingerprints from her room. The body has not yet returned home.

``This was my daughter’s first plane ride,″ he said.

During the service Tuesday night at St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church in Williamsport, Fry was described as someone who lived by the motto ``seize the day.″

Since the explosion a week ago, cards, flowers and e-mails have poured into the school with kind messages. ``What’s holding us together is all the sympathy from throughout the world,″ Mayor John Dorin said.

``My name is Chris and I live out here on the island of Guam,″ one e-mail read. ``I am so sorry for what happened, but always remember that there are no accidents in this life, only a purpose that has yet to be understood.″

The French ambassador to the United States, Francois Bujon de l’Estang, sent his condolences. Offerings of sympathy also came from Japan, Australia and Belgium.

``You will be in our thoughts and prayers throughout the Olympic Games,″ the U.S. softball team wrote.

And from another town that has seen great tragedy:

``To the people of Montoursville: We understand your shock, your pain, your sorrow and your anger. ... With love and compassion, Susan Paschall, Oklahoma City.″