Tomorrow will be 14 years since Flight 3407 crashed.
It was February 12, 2009. As Mitch and I drowsily watched the 11:00 PM news in bed, light snow was falling. Suddenly, we awoke with a jolt! The newscaster just announced that Flight 3407, a plane originating from Newark, had crashed in Clarence, near Buffalo, NY. Clarence was less than ten miles from our home…. so close to the airport… so very close to the airport.
Who Was on That Flight?
Our hearts and minds raced over the thoughts of the passengers and crew. Did we know anybody who was traveling? Who was on that Flight? We are a connected community with WAY less than 6 degrees of separation.
The news showed family members waiting for word from their loved ones at the airport. Mitch and I would not know additional details that evening. We eventually fell into a fitful sleep.
The morning news was grim. Every passenger and crew member on the flight perished. Tragically, the plane crashed into a family home. The wife and daughter were able to escape but not the husband. He lost his life watching TV in his home when Flight 3407 crashed on his house. The neighbors’ homes to the right and the left were spared.
I was in my office that morning when I received a call.” Did you hear about Susan Wehle? She was on flight 3407.” Shock and disbelief consumed my mind and body.
I later discovered that Susan was returning from a vacation in Costa Rica with her boyfriend. The layover was in Newark, where each would go their separate ways. The weather was fierce in Newark, and the flight had numerous delays. Finally, the passengers boarded, and Flight 3407 took off.
At 10 P.M., the flight began its fateful descent.
Taken from an Article about Susan, “Less than 24 hours after the crash, about 600 people crowded into Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, N.Y., (now known as Congregations Shir Shalom) on February 13 to remember the vibrant woman with curly hair and an irrepressible smile, the loss so fresh that friends were still speaking of her in the present tense.”
“Susan taught us that a life lived in fear is not a life lived at all,” said Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo.”
Another quote- “Susan’s reach was enormous,” said Jessica K., 21, of Williamsville, a Buffalo suburb. “She was involved in [the life of] every single person here tonight. With her not being here, we’ll have to find a way to reinvest in ourselves.”
Cantorial Soloist Susan, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was 55 years old when she perished. She had so much more to give and live. Our community lost an icon, a friend, and a beautiful soul.
Could Of Should Of Would OF
Investigators found that the pilots were fatigued, the captain had failed several flight simulation tests, and the captain and first officer did not have 1500 hours of experience. The captain and co-pilot made a fatal mistake when the plane stalled moments before landing.
The surviving families of the victims of flight 3407 did not sit and accept fate. They rallied, they made themselves known, they fought, they went to Washington, and they changed aviation laws. These heroic families became advocates for all of us who chose to fly.
This small, powerful group fought tirelessly for years in the memory of their loved ones. Nobody would die under these circumstances again, and their legacy is safer travel for all of us.
When I hear the song Lechi Lach–I think of the lyrics that Susan sang at our daughter Jessica’s bat mitzvah. The memory of that song and the memory of Susan will always remain vivid. She made a difference in the lives of our family.
Dear Susan and the passengers of Flight 3407, we will remember you. May you rest in peace, and may your memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved you. You are truly missed.
For more information about changes made after Flight 3407, click here
Jessica’s Bat Mitzvah
Jessica’s Bat Mitzvah was a moving and powerful celebration. An example of inclusion and community. To read more about Jessica’s story, click here.