Families, friends mourn loved ones CRASH OF USAIR FLIGHT 427

September 11, 1994|By Holly Selby and Howard Libit | Holly Selby and Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writers

In Boston, businessmen and women at a financial planning convention bowed their heads in a long moment of silence. In Charlottesville, Va., church members shared memories and tried help each other cope with their grief. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., a young man sought solace along the ocean beaches.

All are among the friends and relatives of the 132 passengers and crew members who died Thursday night aboard USAir Flight 427.

And now, as the unyielding reality of those deaths begins to sink in, they are among the hundreds of people in places far from Pittsburgh who are struggling to make sense of what was lost that night.

At the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville today, church members will gather to mourn the death of one of their congregation: John T. Dickens, a 47-year-old engineer who moved to Virginia three years ago.

'Faith is our anchor'

"People grieve in different ways. For us, our faith is our anchor," said the Rev. Joel Jenkins, minister of the First Baptist Church.

Many members of his congregation have been calling him, he said. "They are asking, 'Why should this happen to someone like John?' "

To help them, Mr. Jenkins plans to speak this morning about grief at his adult Sunday school classes.

"I will ask them to speak about John," he said.

"In a sudden death like this, there is no time to say goodbye, no time to express your gratitude or love. And sometimes expressing those feelings later allows you to resolve your sorrow."

In Boston, at an international financial planning convention yesterday where computer expert David Huxford, of Oakland, Md., was scheduled to speak, those in attendance stood in silence to memorialize him.

Mr. Huxford, who with his wife, Terry, founded a computer company based near Deep Creek Lake, was returning from a business trip to Chicago when the plane crashed.

Called "Hux" by his friends, the 54-year-old was well known within financial planning circles, said Bob Hurley, a colleague who is attending the Boston convention.

"When people heard the news, you could just hear the moan that went through the crowd," he said.

At the Energy Technology Centers in Pittsburgh and in Morgantown, W.Va., flags were flown yesterday at half-staff to honor the eight U.S. Department of Energy employees killed in the crash, said James K. Langan, of Catonsville, the brother of one of the victims.

The DOE employees all were attending a conference on clean-burning coal that was held in Chicago. And as soon as the news spread that William T. Langan and Charlotte L. Langan were aboard the flight, members of the Baltimore natives' family flocked to Morgantown, where the Langans had been living.

Others also drew upon friends and relatives for comfort.

"We all live within probably three or four miles of each other, and we have all been constantly together," said Lewis Jamison, of Roanoke, Va., whose son-in-law, J. David Lamanca, died in the plane crash.

Mr. Lamanca's wife, Kristi Jamison Lamanca, is six months pregnant, and relatives from both sides of her family have come to help her, said her father.

"All of us are here together. We probably have 15 people sleeping on the floors. We have sat and talked about David. We have even laughed about some of the things he does and how he does them. He's a peach of a fellow," Mr. Jamison said.

Jon Hamley, a resident of Chesapeake, Va., met his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Slocum-Hamley, on the coast of South Carolina. It is there that he is mourning her death.

Trying to fathom his 28-year-old wife's death has put him on an "emotional roller coaster," said Mr. Hamley. Ms. Slocum-Hamley, who was working on the Boeing 737 when it crashed, loved to travel and had been a flight attendant since 1988.

When he learned of his wife's death, Mr. Hamley returned to his parents' home in Myrtle Beach, S.C. -- where the couple met. Her memorial services will be here, as well, he said: "The beach was important to us."

But as they are trying to cope with the catastrophe, many family members have found themselves dealing with hardships that go beyond grieving.

'We're not sure what to do'

Many of the victims' families are waiting to schedule funerals while officials struggle to identify the bodies of those on the flight.

"We're not sure what to do. We have yet to hear [about further identification of the victims] from USAir," James Langan said.

In Parkersburg, W.Va., Joseph Koon Jr. spent Friday searching for his father's dental records, to send to Pittsburgh. His father, Joseph Koon Sr., wasn't planning to take Flight 427, but a business meeting in Chicago ended sooner than expected and he caught the earlier flight, said the younger Mr. Koon.

"The loss is just totally devastating," he said. "The amount of stress that everybody is under is incredible. We are in a daze. It hasn't set in -- I am trying to keep everybody together."

And in the midst of coping with the death of a family member, something that is usually a private matter, many of the families of the passengers on Flight 427 have been barraged by a steady stream of phone calls from news reporters.

"They have been asking incredibly stupid questions," said Mr. Koon. "Someone from Chicago asked me how I felt when I heard he was dead. How do you think I felt?

"How do you think I felt?"

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