Remembering Flight 3407

It was a cold February evening back in 2009. Typical Buffalo weather for that time of year… snowy, icy, chilly. When we heard the horrible news that a plane had gone down in Clarence, we could only assume it was a weather-related disaster. But that immediate assumption did not lessen the shock.

Buffalo had never experienced a plane crash of that magnitude – a commercial flight carrying 50 souls struck a house killing one person inside. We were stunned. 6308 Long Street – the address of the home that was struck – was less than 10 miles from the Buffalo airport! The plane and its passengers were achingly close to their destination. It was and is an immense tragedy, which was only increased when we learned that weather conditions were not the cause of the crash.

The effects of this tragedy were felt far and wide throughout our Western New York community. There was a palpable grief that lasted for many, many months. For the loved ones of those lost, that pain has never ended. I cannot fathom the suffering endured by those who still grieve their loved ones who perished that February night. Yet out of the ashes of their anguish, the families of Flight 3407 have become powerful advocates for much-needed improvements and changes to airline safety. Their tireless efforts have garnered high praise from none other than Captain Sully himself! They are incredible examples of how to deal with a tragedy in the most positive manner possible.

3407 names again

6038 long stret.jpg
Near the crash site is a place called Swormville – a hamlet in the eastern part of Amherst and the western part of Clarence. In case you’re wondering about it’s unusual name, the hamlet takes its name from Adam Schworm, a prominent landowner and businessman. The hamlet was originally known as Schwormville and is sometimes referred to as Swormsville. (Thank you, Google!) St. John Neumann, a great missionary saint who spent time in WNY, founded the “Parish of the Transit” that is now known as St. Mary’s Swormville.

At the time of the Flight 3407 crash, a young parochial vicar was assigned to St. Mary’s parish. His name? Father Bob Zilliox. Ordained in May of 2008, Father Bob’s first assignment was to St. Mary’s, which was under the pastoral leadership of Father Robert Yetter.

st mary's

Right after the crash of Flight 3407, Father Bob was eager to assist the community in healing from this tragedy. He approached his pastor, Father Yetter, about holding a Mass of remembrance for the victims of this tragedy and to offer consolation to their families and the grieving community. St. Mary’s is just 8 miles from the crash site and the closest Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Father Yetter was not interested in holding such a Mass and told Father Bob no. With great sadness, Father Bob watched as other Christian churches in the area held these much-needed services. He was distressed that his parish had not provided one as well.

Although Father Bob was assigned to St. Mary’s for three years, he spent only two years there. He was asked to pursue a degree in canon law since there was a need for additional canon lawyers in the diocese. With his naturally generous spirit, Father Bob embarked upon this new path on his priestly journey and ended up working for many years in the Buffalo Diocese’s Tribunal. Little did he know that he would eventually return to St. Mary’s.

During the late summer of 2018, St. Mary’s was reeling from the shock of alleged abuse perpetrated by their pastor, Father Yetter. Yetter was removed from ministry at the end of August and the parish found itself in need of a new pastor for the first time in over 20 years. But they were about to receive a great gift during this time of suffering: the return of the parochial vicar who had served them from 2008-2010.

Father Bob Zilliox was the perfect priest to be assigned to St. Mary’s – a parish in such great need of hope and healing. A victim of clerical sexual abuse himself, Father Bob was uniquely equipped to respond to the needs of his former parish. I have heard from many of his parishioners that despite their ongoing distress over their former pastor’s actions and the way Bishop Malone handled the situation, they are receiving great consolation and hope from Father Bob’s joyful presence among them.

 

One of the permanent deacons at St. Mary’s is Deacon Paul Snyder, who served with Father Yetter for 15 years. Deacon Paul was at the front lines of the response to the allegations against Father Yetter and was appalled at the Diocese’s lack of concern and care for the people of St. Mary’s parish. He became the first member and representative of the Diocese of Buffalo to call for Bishop Malone’s resignation. His strong, impassioned words on that final Friday of August 2018 will long be remembered.

May the Blessed Mother and St. John Neumann watch over and intercede for the priests, deacons and people of St. Mary’s Parish!

May the souls of those lost on Flight 3407 on February 12, 2009 rest in peace and may God console and strengthen their loved ones.

eternal rest by water

~ In loving memory of the victims of Flight 3407 ~

Passengers

  • Mary Abraham
  • David Borner
  • Linda Davidson
  • Ronald Davidson
  • Alison Des Forges
  • Beverly Eckert
  • John Fiore
  • Ron Gonzalez
  • Brad S. Green Sr.
  • Zhaofang Guo
  • Kevin Johnston
  • George Abu Karam
  • Sean Lang
  • Ellyce Kausner
  • Nicole Korczykowski
  • Jerome Krasuski
  • Brian Kuklewicz
  • Bethany Kushner
  • Maddy Loftus
  • Lorin Maurer
  • Donald McDonald
  • Coleman Mellett
  • Dawn Monachino
  • Dawn Mossop
  • Donald Mossop
  • Shawn Mossop
  • Jennifer Neill
  • Jennifer Neill’s Unborn Son
  • Gerry Niewood
  • Johnathan Perry
  • Mary Pettys
  • Ferris Reid
  • Julie M. Ries
  • John G. Roberts III
  • Kristin Safran
  • Jean Srnecz
  • Darren Tolsma
  • Susan Wehle
  • Ernest W. West
  • Shibin Yao
  • Clay Yarber

Crew

– Capt. Marvin Renslow, Pilot

– Rebecca Shaw, First Officer

– Matilda Quintero, Flight Attendant

– Donna Prisco, Flight Attendant

– Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto, off-duty crew member

6308 Long Street

– Doug Wielinski

blessed are they who mourn

 

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