Air disaster memorial

February 9, 2007 

Greg Threet's youngest daughter, Sheridan, was just 7 weeks old when Threet died in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 at Blue Grass Airport.

That's why Anita Threet was pleased to hear that plans are now in the works to construct a permanent memorial dedicated to her husband and the 48 other people who died in the crash.

"I think that someday, she's going to want to have a place to go back, to have some memories about this, and I think that would be very important to my family," said Anita Threet, who has three young children.

So far, work on a permanent memorial -- which could be built somewhere at the airport -- has been limited to discussions about forming a commission charged with designing, selecting and constructing the monument.

City, state and airport officials support the project, though no decisions have been made about the memorial's location, size, look or cost.

During his State of the Commonwealth Message on Tuesday, Gov. Ernie Fletcher asked state lawmakers to provide financial support for the Flight 5191 memorial, though he did not mention any specific figures.

Family members of crash victims said a permanent memorial would be a nice way to remember their loved ones.

A lot of thought will have to be put into creating a fitting tribute for those who died, said Matthew Snoddy, son of crash victim Tim Snoddy. "There were so many families. To get something that really encompasses what everyone stands for and perfectly memorializes everyone will take some work."

The memorial should be "something that reflects the pain the family members and Lexington in general all went through with the tremendous sense of loss we all experienced," he said.

Plans for a permanent memorial are still in the preliminary stages, said Charlie Boland, the city's acting chief administrative officer. The only decision that has been made at this point is that a memorial of some sort would be appropriate, Boland said.

"If a proper memorial is done, you can draw strength from it," Boland said.

A memorial commission will most likely be named by the end of the month, he said.

The group will include representatives from the airport, local and state governments, arts groups, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and some members of victims' families. One of the first issues the commission will have to tackle is whether the memorial should be at the airport.

Marion Queen -- who lost her father, Leslie Morris, and stepmother, Kaye Craig Morris, in the crash -- said the airport might not be the best spot for the memorial. "If I ever fly again I wouldn't want to look at it," Queen said.

Family members of other victims said a memorial should be at the airport or by the adjacent crash site.

A memorial at the crash site would be appropriate because "it would be a nice place for families to visit" to remember their loved ones, said Sarah King Fortney, the widow of C.W. Fortney, an Air Tran pilot who had been on Flight 5191 catching a ride to work.

One possible location for the memorial is next to the future home of the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, near the main airport entrance, Boland said.

The memorial could also be built somewhere else in Lexington, as long as it's in a place that has meaning, Snoddy said.

The most important thing is to make sure a memorial is accessible to the public, Threet said. "This has touched so many people here in Lexington, around the Bluegrass, actually all over. ... It's going to give people an opportunity to go and reflect on what happened."

Threet said she had begun to wonder whether the crash victims were going to be remembered at all. She had planned to write to Fletcher about the issue, until his announcement during Tuesday's State of the Commonwealth Message.

"I hadn't heard anything about it and it's been almost six months and I would have thought that something should have been in the works," she said. "I'm happy to hear that something is going to be done."

Although there is no timetable yet, a logical target would be to have something either announced or under construction during the crash's one-year anniversary, said Michael Gobb, executive director of Blue Grass Airport. But it could take longer, Gobb said. "We don't want to go into the process with any preconceived notions."

Immediately after the Aug. 27 crash, a temporary memorial, where mourners could drop off flowers, wreaths, notes, cards and other items, was created at the airport.

The makeshift memorial was taken down in late September after high winds blew over the "Remembering 5191" banner, Gobb said.

The banner and other mementos left at the site are now on public display at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, which is currently in a hangar at the airport.

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