The Passengers Of Flight 3407

Illustration for article titled The Passengers Of Flight 3407

When Flight 3407 crashed on Thursday, it took the lives of 50 people with it. A reader wrote to ask us if we would consider writing about a few of the extraordinary women who died.

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The tragedy of the crash has been overshadowed by comparisons to the "Miracle on the Hudson"; for a very brief moment, air travel became a thing of miracles and relief, where the best case scenario can, in fact, happen. That notion was quickly dispelled by the crash of Flight 3407, however, a sad reminder that tragedy does and can strike at any moment.

The New York Times has a very touching write-up of the flight, noting that "It was perhaps not the most glamorous of destinations, or the most luxurious of flights: a turboprop plane pushing through wind and snow and fog to an ailing Rust Belt city," but "as in all such disasters, there were tales of bad luck and terrible coincidence, of great life stories and modest love affairs, of long-awaited reunions turned into rituals of grief."

As our reader noted, "Every life lost in this tragedy is horrific but I was struck at the caliber of some of the women involved," including Dr. Alison L. Des Forges, a human rights advocate who worked tirelessly to bring the world's attention to the genocide taking place in Rwanda in 1994. She was given a MacArthur Genius grant and wrote the book: "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda", which the Times notes is "considered the definitive account of the eventual slaughter of more than 500,000 Rwandans."

Also aboard the flight was Beverly Eckert, a woman who had lost her husband on 9/11 and had since become an advocate for fellow 9/11 families. "Beverly lost her husband on 9/11 and became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day," President Obama noted in her memory, "And in keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband's birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. So she was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead."

Though the sadness over the lives of these fifty people, especially to their families and friends, is hard to even imagine, a small source of light comes from the fact that their contributions to the world, everything from human rights to families rights to being a loving friend, community member, parent, or sibling, will leave a lasting impression on those whom they loved and fought for. Though the women profiled clearly had "extraordinary" lives, every life is extraordinary in its own way, and the fifty people lost in Thursday's crash will leave behind many memories to those who loved them.

Fifty Varied Lives, Ended On A Cold, Foggy Night [NYTimes]
Alison Des Forges, 66, Human Rights Advocate, Dies [NYTimes]
Beverly Eckert, Leader of Families of 9/11 Victims, Dies at 57 [NYTimes]

DISCUSSION

Cimorene
Cimorene

I live in Buffalo too. I was flying in that evening from DC—I landed at 10 o'clock. That flight went down at 10:20. I didn't realize that anything had happened until my mom called me. To make sure I was alive. My grandmother was in hysterics—she knew I was flying in, and my cousin was flying out around 9:30, and nobody knew what had happened.

One of the women on the plane was coming to town to go to the wedding of her boyfriends' brother—who lived in my neighborhood when I was growing up. His parents still live there, less than a half mile from mine.

Buffalo is in many ways a normal, bustling city (contrary to popular reports of shitty rust belt blizzards etc), but it's also a small town in lots of ways. So many people here are related to so many families—not many people move here, unless they grew up here. Just the way this city is, there will be very, very few people who won't be personally affected in some way by this tragedy. We're all just to close, and things like this Don't Happen Here. This is a area that loses power at least once a winter, occasionally for up to a week at a time, sometimes with people stuck in cars on the highway overnight in a blizzard. And we almost never have fatalities from the weather, because everyone just opens themselves up to each other, with people who have snow mobiles (a la Palin) volunteering as delivery people for pharmacies to elderly residents.

I just remembered that as I walked out of security a little after ten, there was a huge crowd of people waiting. No doubt, many were for my arriving flight. There was one very young man (boy, really, I wondered whether he could even have driven himself to the airport) waiting at the very front, around a corner hidden away from the rest of the crowd. He was wearing a (rather adorably ill-fitting) tuxedo-esque outfit that he had clearly picked to wear special to the airport to get whomever he was greeting. I just kept thinking about him, whether he was waiting for someone who never came. It's just horrendously sad.