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The Nation

Churches Crowded After Comair Crash

A week ago, 49 died after their plane struggled to take off. Kentuckians grieve, and reflect.

September 04, 2006|From the Associated Press

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Shaken by tragedy, people packed Kentucky churches Sunday, a week after the crash of Comair Flight 5191 killed 49 people in Lexington.

Despite the Labor Day weekend, nearly 6,000 people attended services at Southland Christian Church outside Nicholasville, just south of Lexington. Volunteers directed traffic.

"It's been a very painful experience for everybody," said the Rev. Jon Weece, the church's senior pastor.

"I think the emotions range from everything from anger, confusion, obviously pain. I think people have a ton of questions that go well beyond the whys of the crash, beyond the details of whose fault it was."

The commuter jet turned onto a runway that was too short, struggled to get airborne and crashed in a field Aug. 27.

The sole survivor, first officer James Polehinke, remained hospitalized Sunday in serious condition. A National Transportation Safety Board official has said Polehinke was flying the plane.

Seven of the victims were relatives or close friends of Southland parishioners, Weece said.

At the tiny Liberty Baptist Church outside the eastern Kentucky town of Paintsville, 30 people gathered to pray for the victims' families.

Liberty Baptist member June Rice, a retired teacher, said the husband of a former student died in the crash.

"This just emphasizes the fact that everybody needs to be ready to go at any time," she said.

The victims included two parishioners of the Cathedral of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Lexington, where Father Paul Prabell said people had turned to God to deal with their emotions.

"How profound grief is. How overwhelming the sense of loss is. It just permeates throughout our community," Prabell said.

The priest said people had been left with a realization that "the flaws of life, and the randomness with which the flaws of life catch up with us, are beyond our control and beyond our comprehension."

As part of the service at Southland, tearful parishioners wrote notes to relatives of the crash victims on tables set up throughout the sanctuary. Weece said the notes would be presented to the families.

"I am so sorry," wrote Hannah Nee, one of hundreds of names on the letters. "There are no words."

Weece said: "I think this tragedy shook up the whole community. We talk about life and death all the time, but a situation like this really focuses our attention."

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