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MARTHA SEZ: Author shares plane crash story at library

May 21, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Author Karen Wielinski spoke at the Keene Valley Library Monday, May 15, about her book, "One on the Ground: The Story of One Family Before, During, and After Continental Flight 3407 Crashed into Their Home," published by Librastream.

Cheerful, well-spoken and informative, Wielinski is clearly determined to make sure that good comes from the horrific experience of her family and the families and friends of the passengers on board Flight 3407.

Be Prepared: That is the Boy Scout motto. Most of us, whether or not we are scouts, like to believe that we can handle whatever may come along. While hoping for the best, we try to be ready for breakdowns, unexpected turns of event and twists of fate.

Some people are most comfortable believing that they are masters of their fate. "There are no accidents!" they state with finality. "That can't happen to me."

When we experience an event so random that no one could anticipate it-much less prepare for it-we say it happened out of the blue. Events that befall us out of the blue seem especially shocking, even unfair.

No one could ever claim that what happened to Karen Wielinski and her family was in any way predictable, or that they could have prepared for it. Their catastrophe did befall them out of the blue, quite literally.

On Feb. 12, 2009, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 airplane with two turboprop engines and room for 74 passengers crash landed into their two-storey house in Clarence Center, near Buffalo, New York.

Karen and her husband, Doug, were both in the house; their daughter Jill, a SUNY Brockport student, was home on a break before a planned internship. Their other three daughters, Kim, Lori and Jess, were not at the house at the time.

Jill was upstairs sitting on her bed when the plane crashed.

"The force of the crash had knocked me off the bed. I knew I had to get out," Jill wrote. "I saw flames already blocking the front windows."

Not knowing what had happened, she found her way out through an opening-maybe the window of her sister's room-and slid down a slippery surface that she later figured out was the plane's wing. Her mother escaped through the back of the house. Neither knew until later that Doug had perished, by blunt force trauma, in the crash.

As the "New York Times" reported Feb. 11, 2009, "The crew of the plane that crashed near Buffalo on Thursday night discussed a 'significant ice buildup' on the wings and windshield as the aircraft descended through light snow and mist, according to the flight data and voice recordings recovered from the scene of the accident that killed all 49 people on board and one person on the ground."

The experience for author Karen Wielinski, as a survivor, was traumatic, and her grief at losing her husband, profound. One of the reasons she gives for deciding to go on and to become an author is to commemorate her husband, Doug Wielinski, and to show that he is more than "one on the ground" as he was described in news accounts of the crash.

In her book, Karen Wielinski quotes Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen): "All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them."

The book shows clearly how this chance event has created chaos and sorrow not just when the plane crashed, but for a long time to come. She writes, "3407 was a cruel taskmaster right from the start, arriving without warning. ... It brought chaos and destruction and continues ... bringing unhappiness."

The trial, seeking redress from the airline, was painful for Wielinski, the questioning perceived as "cold and unfeeling." In her words, "Were they looking for proof that Doug was not important to us, that he had ... done nothing for our family? They will not find it."

She persevered, certain that Doug would have wanted her to keep going.

Despite the subject matter, this book is not depressing, but emotionally honest and uplifting.

Wielinski takes the reader through her life after the accident, as, despite difficulties, she manages to find good, accepting and giving help. In the years following the crash, she joined family members of the passengers who died to lobby successfully for airline safety legislation to be passed.

Characteristically, her inscription on the flyleaf of my copy of "One on the Ground" reads "Martha, Cherish life and the memories you create."

Have a good week.



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