This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB remembers victims of plane crash

Students light candles—one for each of the 50 victims of the crash of Flight 3407—at Tuesday’s remembrance service. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

Students light candles—one for each of the 50 victims of the crash of Flight 3407—at Tuesday’s remembrance service. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

Published: February 18, 2009

Emotions mixed with music and expressions of loss on Tuesday during the university’s remembrance program for the 50 victims of Continental Flight 3407, a dozen of whom had connections to UB as family members of faculty and staff, parents of students and alumni.

Each victim’s name appeared briefly in a video presentation, “UB Remembers,” before fading away as their lives did last Thursday when the plane crashed in Clarence Center. Fifty votive candles were lit at the edge of the stage to represent the light of each of those lives.

“In the days and months and years ahead, I know we will continue to reflect back on this time, and remember both the pain of this event and the fond memories we have of those we lost and what we learned from them,” President John B. Simpson told the 200 faculty, staff, students and community members in the Student Union Theater.

Describing those attending the remembrance as a “community,” Simpson noted: “Community brings people together who share some common bond. Sometimes these are bonds of happiness. Sometimes they are bonds of loss. It is clearly the latter one that brings us together today.”

He added that the local community’s reaction to the loss is tempered by a factor that makes it different from other communities. “One of the things that distinguishes our community here in Western New York is the proximity of people to one another, the seemingly small number of degrees of separation between neighborhoods, families and friends.”

The service, coordinated by the Division of Student Affairs, opened with a Mozart prelude performed by the UB Flute Quartet. Later in the program, UB’s student a cappella singing groups, the Buffalo Chips and Royal Pitches, performed “It Don’t Have to Change” and “Seasons of Love,” respectively.

Readings were offered by students, as well as representatives of the Newman Center and Unitarian Universalist Church.

Gerald W. Schoenle Jr., chief of University Police, reflected on the difficult yet critical role played by first responders, whom he described as the individuals “running toward” a disaster, as opposed to away from it.

“I thought about a wedding I attended this weekend for a friend’s daughter. My friend, a retired university police officer and first responder, was called to the airport Thursday evening as the groom’s brother in the wedding party had lost his fiancé on Flight 3407,” he recalled. “First responders are family members, friends, soldiers, firemen, policemen, our neighbors.”

The Rev. Msgr. Patrick Keleher, director of the Office of Campus Ministries, concluded the service with a reflection on the passage from Ecclesiastes that begins, “To everything there is a season; a time to be born, and a time to die…”

He said those words have been more than a source of comfort for him following the crash of Flight 3407.

Keleher said he has found himself “not mourning as much as thinking of what every one of them did, who they were, where they were going.”

“Relatives, reunions, rehearsals, researching, rejoicing, rescuing refugees.” Newspaper profiles of those lost in the crash, he added, revealed them to be “deep people, hard-working, happy, committed to something deeper, lots done, even the young ones, lots left to do…so, so gifted. So proud we can be, so grateful.”

Reflecting on those affected by the tragedy, he concluded: “There were more than 50 victims. Many, many, many, many, many more.”