The first anniversary of the nation's second-worst aviation aviation disaster was marked with a solemn ceremony near Detroit Metropolitan Airport where Northwest Flight 255 went down, killing 156 people.
An estimated 500 people, including many friends and relatives of the crash victims, attended the event Tuesday night. Flight 255 crashed on Aug. 16, 1987, seconds after taking off for Phoenix.Heart-shaped markers - one for each of the 156 people killed and each with a ribbon bearing the name of a crash victim - were laid out to form the number 255.
At 8:46 p.m., the precise time of the crash, the names of the victims were read. As each one was read, a relative or designated representative standing by the heart bearing that name turned on a pen light. Many sobbed as the lights were turned on.
The ceremony also featured songs, prayers and an original poem.
The vigil was sponsored by a group of victims' relatives known as "Flight 255 . . . Their Spirit Lives On."
The organization also sponsored a memorial service in downtown Detroit Saturday that was attended by about 2,000 people.
The only survivor of the crash was Cecelia Cichan, who is now 5 and living with an aunt and uncle in Birmingham, Ala. Her parents and 6-year-old brother were killed in the crash.
Betty Polec of Mount Clemens, a founder of the group, has said she plans to hold a vigil at the crash site every year.
The group also is raising funds for a permanent memorial to crash victims.
"Initially we were apprehensive about coming, but it is a way to say goodbye," said Carol Lapish, 41, of Port Huron whose siser-in-law, Joanne Downs, was killed in the crash.
Mary Best, of Fulton, N.Y., who lost five family members in the crash, said visiting the memorial was difficult, but she found some consolation in sharing her grief.