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Swissair Site Returning to Normal

September 13, 1998

PEGGY’S COVE, Nova Scotia (AP) _ The tourists arrive in Peggy’s Cove by the busload, cameras in hand, to climb on the rocks along the coast and snap pictures of what locals claim is the most photographed lighthouse in all of Canada.

But the deaths of 229 people aboard Swissair Flight 111 have cast a pall over the picturesque fishing village. And eleven days after the plane crashed into the Atlantic five miles off the coast, life here has only started returning to normal.

Alongside the tourists are victims’ relatives who came here to mourn. Dozens of police and military personnel still search for remains and investigate the cause of the crash.

Most of the tourists had planned to come here months before the Geneva-bound MD-11 plunged into the sea on Sept. 2 after taking off from New York.

Some visitors, like Carol Ambrozy, 59, of Athol, Mass., had considered skipping this part of their Nova Scotia tour after the disaster.

``Your first instinct is to avoid it, and that’s not right,″ she said, fighting tears. ``There’s a need for people to acknowledge what happened and to pay their respects.″

In the days after the crash, the tiny town, accessible only by a road off a coastal highway, was closed off to tourists. The locals had to prove residency to get to their seaside cottages.

On Tuesday, the town was reopened, and more and more people have been arriving.

Business is usually booming this time of year, said Diane Waters, the hostess at the Sou’Wester, a local restaurant and gift shop with a water view from nearly every table. But on Saturday, only five tour buses stopped in, less than half of what’s typical for September.

``Slowly, it’s getting back to normal,″ she said Sunday as she rang up customers’ breakfast bills. ``It’s going to take a while, but we’ll get back.″

The signs of the crash are still everywhere. At the base of the lighthouse is a memorial to the victims: teddy bears, Bibles, flowers and notes reading ``God be with you.″

Meanwhile, Swissair confirmed reports Sunday that the plane was carrying a locked box containing possibly millions of dollars in currency and gold. The airline, which frequently transports money in and out of Geneva, would not give a dollar figure or say to whom it belonged or where it was going.

Out at sea, divers searched for human remains from U.S. and Canadian boats, and a salvage vessel prepared to hoist pieces of wreckage from 180-foot depths.

Many of the tourists said they felt a connection to the crash by being in Peggy’s Cove.

Mauro Cusce, 70, of Yorktown, Va., said prayers and sang ``Amazing Grace″ as he and 40 others pulled into Peggy’s Cove on their tour bus.

The place mats and refrigerator magnets he bought from the Sou’Wester on Sunday ``have meaning now, rather than (being) just a trinket.″

Saturday night was the first time in more than a week that Sheila Crooks, owner of the Breakwater Inn, had all three of her guest rooms filled with tourists instead of reporters.

But the water view from the front of her inn is still obstructed by green military tents and police vehicles.

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