Worship service honors crash victims, survivors

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Buddhist leader says we're connected to one another

By Vince Luecke

TELL CITY - Spiritual leaders from four faiths joined their thoughts and prayers Sunday with those from the community and relatives of those who died in an airline crash 50 years ago.

The afternoon worship service at the Schergens Center recalled the lives of the 63 men, women and children who died March 17, 1960, when Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 710 broke up over Millstone and crashed.

Speaking at the hour-long service were St. Paul Catholic Church pastor the Rev. Dennis Duvelius; Dr. Richard Moss, representing Adaith B'nai Israel Temple in Newburgh; Master Thich Dong Tien of the Buddhist Temple in Louisville, Ky., and the Rev. John Roemer of Louisville.

The four men represented the religious faiths of those who died in the crash.

The last to speak, Roemer offered the most emotional address, visibly shedding tears as he recounted the events of 50 years ago. He was pastor of St. John's United Church of Christ in Cannelton and took part in the dedication of the Millstone memorial in 1961.

He recalled the impact the crash had on the community and the concern that led to the establishment of a memorial. He also shared a poem written by the late Leona Adams of Tobinsport. Known for her gift of words, Adams' poem reflects the sense of loss many felt at the time as 63 people, strangers to the people of Perry County, fell tragically to the earth and whose memories were etched in the county's collective conscience.

Roemer compared the lives of those who died and loved ones with those bonded by their experiences when U.S. Airways pilot Capt. Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger successfully ditched his crippled jet in the Hudson River in 2009 after birds damaged both of its engines.

Though the captain of Flight 710 never had a chance to save the lives he was entrusted with, Roemer said we can learn from Sullenberger, who told a network news program that his years of education and training were regular small deposits in a bank of experience. When needed, Sullenberger said, he was able to make a single, large withdrawal. Our lives, Roemer said, should be similar in that we can make small contributions of hope, faith and love. When needed, he concluded, we can rely on others willing to share those virtues with us.

Duvelius recalled his experience of watching a Remembrance Day commemoration in Great Britain. The event drew not only veterans but their widows, children and grandchildren. He called the presence of victims' relatives and community members a "great testament" to those who died.

Duvelius said events from the past will inevitably fade with time, but "just because some events slip into the past does not diminish their meaning and importance."

Moss said the crash shows the "fragility of life" and the need to value the brief time we're given by God. Every day holds value, Moss said, saying God's call is to help make life better for those around us and those who come after us. Moss recited a portion of Psalm 90.

Buddhist Master Thich Dong Tien reflected on the impact our lives have on one another. Calling it just and proper to remember those who died in the crash and those who mourn them 50 years later, he said humans are connected to one another and our actions in this life, which has an affect on our futures, in this life and the next.

Family members of four people killed in the 1960 crash attended weekend services. Tom Teresi lost his 21-year-old brother, John, in the crash. An electrical engineering student at the University of Minnesota, he was heading to Florida for spring break.

Just 16 at the time, Tom Teresi dropped his brother off at the airport. It was the last time they would see each other.

"I was looking forward to a week with his car," he said. The teen returned that evening to a home filled with crying relatives. A resident of a St. Paul, Minn., suburb, Tom Teresi said his experiences over the weekend went beyond his expectations.

"I can't say enough for what everyone here has done," he said before the start of the service. "I'll carry very warm memories."

Editor's Note: Leona Adams' poem in honor of the victims of Flight 710 will be published as part of an editorial in Monday's edition. More photos from the services can be found in the slide-show area of this site.