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Services Honor Local Victims of TWA Flight

Memorials: More than 1,000 bid farewell in Hollywood Hills. Separate gathering is held for Bel-Air family.

July 22, 1996|ERIC SLATER and KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Lori Farrow knew none of the passengers, none of the flight attendants, none of the crew members of Trans World Airlines Flight 800.

She does, however, know something of sorrow.

She lost her father suddenly two weeks ago, and after visiting his grave Sunday, she came to this memorial service and sat by herself, in the balcony at the back of a giant hall, and mourned 230 people she'd never met.

"I knew I was going to come," the Sherman Oaks woman said. "I was touched."

More than 1,000 people--including many who, like Farrow, simply wanted to express their support for those who lost someone close to them in the tragedy--gathered at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills for a service organized by the airline.

Among the crowd were several hundred wearing the pressed navy blue uniforms of TWA--pilots, flight attendants and other employees.

Cheryl DeFonce, a TWA flight attendant who had worked Flight 800--her favorite run--a few times each month, knew most of the 14 flight attendants and crew of three.

"I'm still in a daze," she said. "I really don't feel like this actually happened to us."

The loss from the Paris-bound flight was so great, the dead so numerous, that eulogies were limited to a few words, and only for the airline employees and passengers from Southern California.

But all who perished were being remembered by a "worldwide company of mourners," Rabbi Allen I. Freehling of University Synagogue in Brentwood told the audience.

As the somber crowd filed out of Forest Lawn's Hall of Liberty and into the sunshine, each of the first 230 was handed a white helium-filled balloon.

Eric Rojany and his girlfriend, Stefani Seltzer, pulled out a felt marker and penned a note on their balloon to Eric's 19-year-old brother, Yon. Yon Rojany, a former athlete at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, was aboard Flight 800 en route to Italy to try out for several professional basketball teams.

"I love you, Yon," the balloon read. "Your wings have sprouted. It's time to use them." Then the couple released the balloon into an almost cloudless sky. As the balloons rose, seven vintage aircraft, piloted by a Van Nuys-based group of World War II pilots called the Condor Squadron, streaked overhead, trailing white smoke.

TWA pilot Carrol E. McCasland, dressed in his uniform and flight cap, looked up. He knew the pilot, the first officer and several others on Flight 800.

"This," McCasland said quietly, "is perfect flying weather." The gathering was one of four sponsored by TWA on Sunday. The others were held in St. Louis, Kansas City and New York.

Also Sunday, 1,500 mourners gathered at Stephen S. Wise Temple off Mulholland Drive to remember Gene Silverman, his wife, Etta, and their daughters , Candace and Jamie. The Bel-Air family was transferred at the last moment to the TWA jet when their New York-Rome flight was canceled.

Silverman, 54, was a tax lawyer, and during the two-hour service, a letter was read from the chief judge of the U.S. Tax Court, Mary Ann Cohen, and another tax judge, Stephen J. Swift, eulogizing him as a highly respected litigator who would be missed.

Seventeen family members and friends spoke at the temple service as separate portions of it were devoted to each member of the Silverman family, including the couple's daughters. Candace, 22, was a recent honors graduate of USC, and Jamie, 15, was a student at the Wise temple.

Rabbi Eli Herscher declared that Jamie had an "unforgettable presence for someone at such a young age, and [one who] made such a tremendous impact."

As for the Silverman family as a whole, he said, "There are no words to adequately give voice to our boundless grief."

There were many references to the abilities of Silverman, who worked for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington and the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles before his years with a Westwood law firm.

But there were light reminiscences as well, with the Silvermans described as great practical jokers, wonderful friends and people who knew how to have a good time.

"That's why we're all here today," said Steven Bergman, a close family friend. "To pay tribute to people who touched our hearts."

Silverman's elder brother, Ronald, recalled many happy trips to California, the bat mitzvahs of Candace and Jamie, and the fact that this December would have marked Etta and Gene Silverman's 25th wedding anniversary.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Crash Victims

Southern California residents killed in the crash of TWA Flight 800:

* Anderson, Seana, 27, of Van Nuys, medical office secretary (engaged to Brent Richey).

* Chemtob, Monique, of Mar Vista (was traveling to her brother's funeral in Europe).

* Kevorkian, Capt. Ralph G., 58, of Garden Grove, TWA Flight 800 pilot.

* Lucien, Dalila, 17, of Los Angeles (niece of Ana Maria Shorter and daughter of jazz singer Jon Lucien).

* Richey, Brent, 26, of Van Nuys, law student and business owner.

* Rojany, Yon, 19, of Studio City, aspiring basketball player.

* Shorter, Ana Maria, 47, of Studio City (wife of jazz musician Wayne Shorter).

* Silverman, Candace, 22, of Bel-Air (daughter of Etta and Eugene Silverman).

* Silverman, Etta, 53, of Bel-Air.

* Silverman, Eugene, 54, of Bel-Air, tax attorney and partner with DeCastro, West & Chodorow of Westwood.

* Silverman, Jamie, 15, of Bel-Air (daughter of Etta and Eugene Silverman).

* Story, William R., 51, of Newport Beach, president and chief executive officer of National American Insurance Co.

* Torche, Melinda, 47, of Mission Viejo, TWA Flight 800 crew member.

* Warren, Lani, 48, of San Diego, off-duty TWA flight service manager.

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