Four years and four hours after the crash of Comair Flight 5191, friends and relatives gathered Friday at the Arboretum on Alumni Drive to break ground for a sculpture dedicated to the memory of the 49 crash victims and to honor the first responders.
The contemporary piece of 49 stylized silver birds, sculpted by Northern Kentucky artist Douwe Blumberg, will be placed in the Reflections Garden, an area developed at the Arboretum by Hospice of the Bluegrass.
The ceremony also launched the community fund drive that will help raise money to pay for the memorial and its upkeep.
Gov. Steve Beshear said it would be a place where Kentuckians could come to pay their respects for the lives lost. Pain still weighs on family members and the community over the tragedy, the governor said, adding that he and his wife, Jane, had friends from their personal and public lives who were on the plane.
Flight 5191 crashed after taking off Aug. 27, 2006, from the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport, killing all on board but the co-pilot.
"Sometimes we want to scream. Sometimes we want to cry. Sometimes we want to turn the clock back, and we know we can't," Beshear said.
Matthew Snoddy, oldest son of passenger Timothy K. Snoddy, said the memorial would be a place where people could come together to "visit, reflect and appreciate."
Members of the Flight 5191 Memorial Commission chose Blumberg's work for its uplifting yet serene theme, said Snoddy, a commission member. The Arboretum — jointly owned by the city and the University of Kentucky — was selected because of its tranquility, effervescent color and life throughout the four seasons.
Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture, which has responsibility for managing the Arboretum, said the Arboretum was "deeply grateful" to be selected as home to the memorial. Besides being a lovely spot, the Arboretum is a fitting location, he said, because it is an optimistic setting and a place popular with the community, especially families. Its paths are favorites with walkers and joggers, and many passed behind Smith as he spoke.
The commission has raised about $250,000 toward the $350,000 needed to buy and install the sculpture. Beshear has appropriated $100,000 from state funds. The Urban County Council voted at its meeting Thursday night to contribute $25,000.
A model of the sculpture was on display Friday, and Lois Turner, wife of passenger Larry Turner, said to those gathered that it was a fitting tribute to the victims and would be "a comfort to those of us left behind." She added, "On behalf of the families of 5191, we are grateful."
David Silas of Birmingham, Ala., whose mother, Mary Jane Silas, was on the flight, said of Blumberg's sculpted piece, "I love it. It's perfect."
Mary Jane Silas was on her way home to Columbus, Miss., after visiting her sister Geraldine Williams of Lexington.
Also in the audience were Castella Washington and her brother Ralph Johnson Jr., both of Lexington, whose sister Priscilla Johnson and cousin Joann Wright were killed as they left for a vacation in the Bahamas.
Friday morning's ceremony brought Washington a sense of closure, she said. "It's such a peaceful location. It makes you feel like they are finally resting in peace, waiting for the resurrection, because they were both Christians," she said.
Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.