Crash of Flight 5191

So close to home

Once Greg Huff heard about the crash of Flight 5191, he wondered how long it would be until he found out someone he knew was on the ill-fated plane.

It didn't take long for him to discover that a co-worker's mother had died in the accident that claimed 49 lives.

Huff, 27, is the bassist for Lexington band Lucid Grey.

During the band's set at A1A Concert Hall yesterday, lead singer Clark Cranfill talked about six degrees of separation -- the theory that everyone is six people from knowing everyone else.

He told the audience that in Lexington, it's more like one degree, and it was a theory that was proven time and again among the audience and musicians at a benefit for the families of the victims of Flight 5191.

And for several of them, the friends or friends of friends were people who had walked the halls of their high schools or shared a dorm room.

"You don't expect people you know to die when you're in your 20s," said Nathan York, who grew up in London, which lost several residents and natives to the crash, including newlyweds Jonathan and Scarlett Parsley Hooker.

Several people identified with the couple who celebrated their wedding the night before the tragedy and were taking the flight to begin their honeymoon.

"When I got married, I was on that flight the next morning," said Jim Noll, 50. "A lot of people take that flight, especially newlyweds -- Lexington to Atlanta to Miami to a cruise ship."

Noll, president of Short Street productions, got a call from people at WXZZ (103.3 FM), better known as Z-Rock, the day after the crash asking about putting together a benefit concert.

The venue of choice, A1A, was free because it normally hosts volleyball leagues on Mondays, but those were canceled on Labor Day.

And the bands were more than willing.

"We're in the studio right now, so we didn't have any plans to play in Lexington anytime soon," said Kyle Crum, 30, lead singer for D-SuL. "But the minute they asked us, we said, 'We're there.'"

Crum went to Madison Central High School with Brian Byrd, who died with his fiance, Judy Ann Rains, en route to their wedding in St. Lucia.

"I didn't know him real well, but he was a good guy," Crum said. "That really brought it home."

One of James Tudor's good friends was a roommate to crash victim Erik Harris.

"It's a good chance to come out and raise money for a good cause," Tudor, 22, said.

Melissa Miller, whose on-air name at Z-Rock is Mary Jane, said people were calling all last week to ask how they could help.

"Our audience isn't filled with people who can write $200 or $300 checks," said Zumwalt Scott, whose on-air name is Hammer. "But $10 for a concert and $10 to buy a T-shirt is something they can afford."

All the time and talent for the event, which raised $1,200, was donated, so proceeds from everything including T-shirts, band merchandise and bar sales went to the United Way fund for families of Flight 5191. Even the bartenders and bouncers were volunteers.

"I don't know anyone from the flight," said bartender Tracy Axel, "but I work here, and this event is something to be proud of."

There is a tradition in rock 'n' roll of benefit concerts stretching back to ex-Beatle George Harrison's concert for Bangladesh in 1971, to the Live Aid and Farm Aid concerts that started in the 1980s, to recent events to benefit victims of the terror attacks of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina.

"People always think of musicians in rock bands being these hard-core people," said Ian Goff, 24, a booking agent for Short Street Productions and bass player for D-SuL. "But they really have the biggest hearts."

Huff observed, "Music is a very easy commodity to donate."

Travis Huber and his bandmates in Point of Real didn't have to be persuaded, even though they didn't know anyone on the flight.

Huber just finished serving 13 months in Iraq with the Army National Guard, "so I understand what it is like to have a close friend die. It's tough to take."

While in Iraq, Huber, 28, says he often turned to music for solace and to lift his spirits, be it Godsmack or Duke Ellington.

"It's a universal language," Huber says. "It brings people together."

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