Tonawanda News


February 12, 2014

Time turns 3407 tragedy into story of action


Tonawanda News — After filing overnight on the web, I came home, grabbed an hour's fitful sleep, put on a clean shirt and came back to the office. 

Our reporters, still sleepy-eyed, huddled to make a plan. Over the next 16 hours I shouted myself hoarse, cellphone and office phone each to an ear at the same time for much of the day and into the night.

Some incredibly talented journalists did some stunning work and despite the tragic subject, I'll never be more proud of a day's newspaper than the one we made that day. We felt a deep and abiding responsibility to get it right, each one of us. And we did.

As the news filtered in, the mammoth scope of the tragedy began to take shape. This being Western New York it seemed like everyone knew someone — or knew someone who knew someone — who had been affected.

I got a tearful call from my mother when it became known my old Sunday school teacher and the cantor at the temple my family attended when I was a boy was among the dead. Her name was Susan Wehle and she was among the kindest people I've ever known. She had a beautiful singing voice and used it with sincerity and devotion. It was a heartbreaking loss for our area's tight knit Jewish community.

There were vigils and moments of silence — perhaps the most poignant at the Buffalo Sabres game that night when 18,000 people stood quiet for a full minute, nary a dry eye in the house.

But for all we experienced — the incomprehension, the grief, the funerals — in those first hours and days, there exists an ending befitting this community's real spirit.

Loss turned into action. Families bound together by such a senseless event came together to fight for better and tougher laws about airline safety.

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