More than a year has passed since three Melba residents were killed when Continental Airlines' flight 1713 crashed on takeoff at Denver's Stapleton Airport, but the pain remains in this tiny farm community.
However, the tragedy that ripped at the hearts of everyone in the community of 300 also brought the town's residents closer together as they turned to each other for support."Somebody once said that time heals all wounds; I don't believe that," said Katauana Lenz, a senior at Melba High School. "But it gets easier because we're helping each other out."
That help was evident Friday when 75 people gathered during a service to dedicate a picnic area and plaque in memory of students Janine Ledgerwood, 17; Sherry Nelson, 18; and Tami Daniel, 26, the wife of Melba's Future Farmers of America adviser.
Twenty-eight people were killed and 54 were injured in the plane crash. The Melba residents were returning from an FFA conference in Kansas City, Mo.
Lenz, editor of the high school annual, presented yearbooks to surviving family members at the service. The yearbooks were dedicated to the three who died.
During the emotion-charged presentations, some cried while others embraced each other.
Lenz's voice cracked and she began to cry when she asked people to "remember the good times, good things and good memories with Sherry, Janine and Tami."
Lenz said she was grateful for the seven Melba residents who survived the crash "and came home to us." The picnic area on the high school campus was built with money donated to the school's agriculture program.
The plaque, which sits in front of the picnic area, reads: "In memory of Tami Daniel, Sherry Nelson and Janine Ledgerwood who perished in the crash of flight 1713, Denver, Colorado, November 15, 1987. Dedicated in loving memory by families and friends 1988."
Lenz said she looks at the picnic area each school day on her way to class. "I have so many great memories, I try to keep my thoughts upbeat when I go by," she said.
The small trees that were donated and surround the picnic area are her favorites. "I think the trees are a good addition because they will grow as we do," she said.
Crash survivor Angie Tlucek, who graduated from Melba High last year, said it is important for the community to gather and reflect on those killed in the crash.
"There's a lot of sorrow, but a lot of good memories and a lot of love," she said. "I think it (the picnic area) is a neat way to remember them."