Last week New York remembered a tragedy of its past. A United DC-8, Flight 826, collided with a TWA Super Constellation, Flight 260, over Staten Island. One hundred and twenty eight souls on the two planes perished that day. Ten buildings in the Park Slope neighborhood were destroyed by the falling DC-8 and six more souls were claimed on the ground.
A young boy survived the crash, but that was almost a cruel joke. He died the next day of injuries. I pray his passing was easy.
All crash victims were recovered and remains returned to their loved ones for burial at their homes. But we must remember that the science of identfying crash victims in 1960 wasn't what it was today.
One man, killed on the ground, was identified by the unique way he tied his boots. That's all that could be used.
When all was said and done there were three coffins of remains that could not be identified. United Airlines bought a plot at
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and the unknown were laid to rest there.
No one ever forgets a tragedy like this, but they drift to the back of our minds as life goes on. This was the case until September of this year when a Green-Wood employee discovered the grave of the unknowns.
This grave wasn't marked, not unusual with unknown's. There had been talk of a memorial to the victims of the crash, but it never got beyond that. With the 'take charge' approach we have come to expect from New Yorkers, the folks at Green-Wood decided it was time.
So on December 16 of this year, fifty years later to the day, an eight foot granite Memorial was erected. Green-Wood had informed all the families they could locate. They didn't really expect a large number to come, but some did.
They said it opened old wounds, but it also gave closure. I am one of the people grateful for this act of kindness, even if my connection to it is once removed. I was seven at the time of the crash but have heard about it all my life.
In a small Texas town lives and older relative who has been very important to me. I prefer not to mention names, but this man sat next to me at my father's funeral. He taught me to ride a horse, and was the first to take me hunting. He sat me on the straight and narrow more than once because my father couldn't. In 1960 he was he was a young man in love, and engaged to one of the stewardesses who died in this crash. He has never forgotten her.
Every year on or near Christmas he has a special mass done for her, starting the year of the crash. At least two Texans want to add their thanks to the folks at Green-Wood. Had my relation known about this beforehand it wouldn't have surprised me a bit if he had attended. For him as well, it has provided some closure.