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Crash Of Flight 990

November 02, 1999|By Liz Bowie and Chris Guy | Liz Bowie and Chris Guy,Sun Staff

Shantel Rose said farewell to her new Egyptian friend at Baltimore's airport Saturday afternoon thinking she had started a relationship that would last decades and cross continents.

"Before she left she said, 'This won't be the last time I will see you. You come to Egypt,'" Shantel remembered yesterday.

About 12 hours after they parted, EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed in the Atlantic carrying Shantel's new friend, Walaa Zeid, not yet 20.

The two had lived, studied, shopped and played together for two weeks as part of an exchange program that brought four students and a chaperon from Luxor, Egypt, to Baltimore's Dunbar Senior High School.

The four Egyptian students, ages 12 to 19, were among the 217 people killed when the plane went down. From Baltimore to the Eastern Shore, family and friends got definitive word yesterday: The four students and six people from Maryland were among those killed.

A memorial service for the students is being planned at Dunbar.

In Chestertown, the Rev. Len Blakely will light two more candles this morning for All Souls Day services at Sacred Heart, the Roman Catholic church where Don and Bea Heck had given so much since they retired to Kent County five years ago.

They were killed in the crash along with their neighbors, John and Joann Shelpert, who took to volunteering as soon as they moved to their adopted town.

And in Randallstown, services are being planned for Arthur and Marie Simermeyer, cancer survivors who dedicated their lives to helping the poor and the sick. They were confirmed dead, too.

At Dunbar yesterday, Shantel was not quite ready to let go, especially her memories of Walaa's smile: "It was just sunshine."

Walaa is gone, she knows. The archaeology student will not be a tour guide in Luxor, as she had dreamed.

Now Shantel hopes to meet her friend's family.

"I wish I could learn Arabic and build a relationship with her family," Shantel said.

Book on her trip

Patricia Rose, Shantel's mother, began yesterday by collecting the photographs of Walaa's last two weeks of life: from their trip to Washington, from the big goodbye party for Walaa, where even strangers brought her presents.

She plans to make them part of a book on Walaa's time in Baltimore. She might include the way the girl said, "I love you."

The Roses, along with other students, parents and teachers, plan to meet the students' families if they fly in from Egypt.

"I think it is important the family knows who their daughter spent the last two weeks with," Patricia Rose said.

The Roses and two other host families spoke to reporters, painfully describing the friends they had lost. They told how they became close quickly. They grappled with what to do now, having lost them so suddenly.

Many cried, but others smiled as they recalled differences they discovered in the cultures, of the difficulties the Egyptian students had with English. Walaa had thought white people lived only in New York.

And dictionaries were constant companions. Otherwise, Walaa would never have understood or eaten turkey.

One Dunbar senior, Ebony Allen, sobbed over Ahmed Aboshamab, 13, another of the lost. He had been so homesick, she recalled through tears. On some nights he stayed with another family acting as hosts for his friend, 15-year-old Sameh Morkos.

That boy was killed, too.

Home away from home

"I just want to let them and their families know that I will miss them very much. They had a home away from home," Ebony said.

Tammy Allen, Ebony's mother, said the younger boy was "a sweet kid," who loved newspapers and going to the mall. He bought a camera and suitcase and enough clothes and things to fill the suitcase, Tammy Allen said.

Another student, 12-year-old Geehad Mohamed, stayed with her father, Hosam Mohamed Ahmed, at the home of Dunbar's principal. Ahmed, the director of tourism in Luxor, was chaperoning the students.

"They were gentle and loving," said the principal, Joyce Jennings. "They have a lot of respect for other people.

Jennings said the father and daughter enjoyed buying presents for family, and they looked forward to returning home.

Waiting for him: his wife, a 10-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter.

For years, Hosam Mohamed Ahmed had been a key link in the sister city exchange programs between Baltimore and Luxor, said Abdelwahab Elabd, a Baltimorean who directs the program here.

He said Hosam had come to Baltimore several times and was well-known in Luxor.

"He is a very honest and sincere man. He wants to do something good for the people of Luxor," Elabd said.

News of the crash began filtering to the host families early Sunday. Elabd was called about 5 a.m. by a friend of Hosam's family in Luxor, wondering whether he could tell them what was happening.

Elabd said he called another friend in New York who he knew had met the visiting students at John F. Kennedy International Airport and had dinner with them before they were due to leave Saturday night.

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