Flight 1420 Anniversary Memorial Dedication
June 1, 2004

Remarks by Charlie Fuller

Four years ago many of the survivors of the crash of Flight 1420 wanted to somehow create a permanent marker to remember those who died. The first discussions included the actual crash site and then proceeded to the airport terminal area. After working for some time with Ms. Deborah Schwartz, the airport executive director and Bill Flowers, deputy executive director, we selected a site adjacent to the terminal. But after 9-11 and the increased concerns about security even for parked cars, it became clear that any location close to the terminal would not be very accessible. We are indebted to Ken Quimby and the board of the Aerospace Education Center for allowing us to place the memorial in this location. Parking is free and access is free and unfettered by security concerns.

We offer special thanks to Mr. Quimby for all his support and help through this process.

We are also indebted to Larry Thompson, chairman of the art department at Ouachita Baptist University for the design. The memorial is made up of three overlapping circles. It is asymmetrical - as is much of life. Each wall is a fragment of a perfect circle that is now incomplete. The circles overlap to represent that this event has brought our lives together and they are forever linked by our shared experience.

For the construction we especially thank Greg Crawford of Porter-Crawford General Contractors. Always gracious, he was willing to do literally anything necessary and possible to have the project completed for today's dedication.

We thank so much Governor Mike Huckabee and the State of Arkansas, Mayor Jim Dailey and the City of Little Rock, and many individuals who have contributed financially to the project.

As a musician I know the feebleness of words to express our deepest thoughts. Words can never express all we think and feel especially when those most powerful of events come into our lives. That's why we build memorials. That's why we have artists to seek to express that which transcends language. That's why we find such powerful meaning in these symbols of our experience.

Four years ago on the first anniversary of the crash we gathered in Little Rock to remember. Four years ago those of us who were on Flight 1420 were still numb. Numb with the nearness of tragedy, of loss, of the newness of lives changed forever. Today we gather again to remember. To remember a bit more intentionally, more specifically, and with the perspective of time to aid us.

The world around us is constantly in change. People's lives grow and change. We're born, we grow up, maybe we marry, and maybe we have our own children and begin the circle of life again. But there are unplanned and unwanted changes that come to each of our lives. We lose jobs, we lose friendships, we lose our health, we lose marriages, we lose friends and loved ones to death, we're violated by tragedies of various kinds. There are many kinds of loss that can puncture our sense of security and control.

And because of this since ancient times people have constructed memorials to help us remember what we've lost. Made of stone or metal or some other long-lasting substance, we build them to stand forever in the face of time and weather and decay. It's a way of sharing our stories with generations to come. It's a way of finding a kind of permanence in an impermanent world. But this memorial is not just to remember what we've lost, but to celebrate what we had. To celebrate the very real people who were a part of our lives and who brought us smiles and joy and friendship and life and love.

When designing this memorial, we set out to put a human face on those whose stories now dwell here. Not just a list of names, but very real people whose lives had meaning. People just like you and me. People who were treasured by others. People whose lives were found precious by their friends and family.

The message is not so much that anyone who comes to this place could also die, but that it could be someone they love who is lost. The story is that tragedy can come and likely will come someday to all of us and we should value the lives of those around us. They are precious.

This place exists for the survivors and their families, the families of those who died, the countless emergency workers, firemen, police personnel, health care workers, and airport personnel who came to our aid that night and in the days following. But it also exists for all who are willing to be reminded not only of the inevitability of loss, but also that people are bound together by tragedy, that the best moments of human courage and compassion often come together in the midst of tragedy, and that the lives of those around us are precious.

From the memorial marker we read:

This memorial exists to honor both the memory of those who died and the heroism of those who survived. The trauma and horror of the tragic crash were met with uncountable acts of courage as passengers worked to help each other escape the burning plane.

The survivors wish to remind the world that human life is fragile, that it should never be taken for granted, and that there are heroes all around us.

 


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