Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Tuesday July 17 8:15 PM ET 

TWA Flight 800 Victims Remembered

By FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press Writer 

SHIRLEY, N.Y. (AP) - With the surf pounding nearby on a hazy summer evening, about 150 people gathered Tuesday to remember the 230 people who perished when TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic five years ago.

``There is a bonding, a common thread that will probably always hold us together,'' said Cyndi Hurd, of Severn, Md., whose 29-year-old brother, Jamie, was on the flight. ``It's very comforting.''

The group met at Smith Point Park, the nearest land to the crash site, for a memorial to honor those who died in the crash of the Paris-bound jet moments after it left Kennedy Airport.

The Rev. Mychael Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department, was on duty that night. He recalled coming to the park after the crash and seeing relatives throw flowers into the ocean, a practice they've continued each year since.

``Every year that you come here, you make this spot more blessed and more sacred, if that's possible,'' he said. ``So in a sense, it's good for us to be here. Painful, but good for us to be here.''

Last August, the National Transportation Safety Board (news - web sites) concluded that Flight 800 was destroyed by a fuel tank explosion, likely caused by a wiring spark. Last week, the families of 19 students and adult chaperones with the Montoursville (Pa.) High School French Club reached a settlement with Boeing and TWA providing $2.5 million apiece.

The memorial and a candlelight vigil concluded three days of events organized by victims' relatives.

On Sunday, some visited a hangar in nearby Calverton, where the jetliner was painstakingly reconstructed by crash investigators after pieces of the shattered plane were dredged up from the ocean floor.

There was also a progress report Sunday on the construction of a memorial, which is expected to be completed next year at Smith Point. Other relatives met privately Monday.

Wayne Rogers of Aurora, Ill., lost his daughter, Pam Lychner and two granddaughters, Shannon and Katie. He was full of praise for the people who worked on the crash.

``The people of Long Island have impressed me,'' he said. ``I can't get over how much support and kindness they have shown us. It's greatly appreciated. Those are memories that you can't forget.'' 

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