Shirley - (WALK) Families and loved ones of the 230 people killed 17 years ago aboard TWA Flight 800 gathered in Shirley Wednesday evening. This year's observance included controversy about a new, documentary film that is renewing interest in the air disaster off Long Island's south shore.
TWA Flight 800 exploded in the sky just south of Moriches Inlet, 12 minutes after taking off from JFK Airport on July 17, 1996, at 8:31 p.m. The 747 was bound for Paris, France with passengers and crew of 13 nations. All 230 people aboard were killed.
The ceremony was held at Smith Point County Park in Shirley, the largest, public space nearest where the aircraft exploded off our south shore in July of 1996. It is also the site of the TWA Flight 800 Monument and memorial park.
"Here we can come together and we can share our grief and we can talk to each other about our feelings, and changing feelings, and how we're trying to heal, and everybody can understand. This is a sacred place for us," said John Seaman of Clifton Park, NY, a member of Families of TWA Flight 800.
Several among the gathering complained about constant questions about the film, "TWA Flight 800," and attempts by some to use the memorial service to promote the film.
After a four-year study, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board ruled out a bomb or missle attack as the cause of the disaster. Investigators say a spark ignited fuel vapors and caused the fatal explosion. The filmmakers suggest the plane was attacked by three missiles.
"This seems to be a rehash of things that have been on the internet for ten years. It's questionable. but there's no question the timing of the release is incredibly insensitive and, many families feel, exploitative," said Seaman. The film was released Wednesday night on the Epix cable TV channel. The film is scheduled to be shown at the Stony Brook Flim Festival Saturday.
To contribute to the endowment fund for the TWA Flight 800 memorial, send checks to:
Families of TWA Flight 800, P.O. Box 1061, Clifton Park, NY 12065
Photo: Wikimedia Commons