WW104 May 5, 2021 – Honoring the Fifth Year Anniversary of the Dedication of American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 Memorial: How Memorials Contribute to Long-Term Healing and Recovery

Wednesday Wisdom Series May 5, 2021
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May 5, 2021

Following is the latest Wednesday Wisdom article from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., www.fafonline.org. Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.

Honoring the Fifth Year Anniversary of the Dedication of American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 Memorial:

How Memorials Contribute to Long-term Healing and Recovery


The Dedication, Carpenter Park, Cary, NC, May 14, 2016

    Six years after the Foundation officially started the project, three hundred people gathered at Carpenter Park to take part and witness the dedication of the American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 Memorial. Passengers and crew on both flights and details about them at the time, along with other information about the Memorial, can be found on the Foundation's website www.fafonline.org, under newsletters. See the Summer 2016 edition. The names of numerous organizations and individuals who helped make the Memorial a success are also listed, with our sincere expressions of gratitude.

     Long-time Foundation supporters Richard and Marie Anderson, whose daughter Lauren survived AE Flight 3379, led the fundraising and plans for the Memorial in the early days. Later, Captain Warren "Dee" Sherrow, (retired), headed the inclusion of families from Flight 3378.

In personal tragedy, your sense of safety is shattered. You feel powerless and unlinked from everyone else. And out of that, you feel helpless or angry or want to run away and hide. Personal markers are a way of empowering that moment.

-Alan Manevita, MD, Clinical Psychiatrist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York  

    Employees of companies who suddenly find themselves thrust into a traumatic loss right in the middle of what was supposed to be a typical workday frequently suffer unacknowledged grief-- sometimes for years. And if unresolved, those emotions are carried for a lifetime, spilling over into other relationships and unrelated life events. The genesis of the Foundation is an understanding of the need to honor all lives impacted when tragedy strikes. As a result, Foundation activities such as this Memorial dedication include all affected by the trauma.

The Memorial brought a sense of closure and healing. It brought about a sense of calm after years of feeling anxiety of nowhere to go to reflect or mourn in a more relevant way. It was also a place to feel a sense of belonging with others who experienced the losses that night. A bond that is unspoken and often suppressed unless you have gone through similar loss or events.

-Lisa Maldonado, on duty at the airport, the night of the crash of American Eagle Flight 3379

To have the Memorial become a reality brought a sense of closure for me.  It was a lot of work and dedication to see it through. I can have peace of mind now, knowing that I did what I could to help keep the memory of friends and family in our hearts.

-Captain Warren “Dee” Sherrow, (retired), led the airline's investigation of Flight 3378 and provided formal notification to Capt. Walt Cole’s fiancé.


    With the dedication of the American Eagle Flights 3378 and 3379 Memorial, we had an opportunity to honor the entire ripple of victims/survivors of the crashes. From the time the memorial planning started, led by family survivors Rich and Marie Anderson, employees connected to American Eagle Flight 3379 as well as community responders were included in the planning with the other family members who later joined in.  Captain Warren "Dee" Sherrow (retired) took the lead on bringing fight 3378 families into the loop. Dee led the 3378 accident investigation for the company and was touched deeply by the losses. One of his best friends, Walter Cole was the Captain on the flight. Along with other duties after the crash, Dee notified the Captain’s fiancé of the accident.

Honoring the Ripple

    At the ceremony, airline representatives from both companies were present, as were first responders and other community members who shared the grief of the crashes. Symbolic of our belief that victims' families, survivors, and their families and company employees, and community responders are joined in the Kinship of Sorrow and therefore benefit by sharing the grieving process, the dedication ceremony featured a mixture of survivors from various groups working together. Former American Airlines CARE Team Manager, Russell Gutierrez served as the moderator of the entire event. Passenger survivor, Lauren Anderson called out the names of the passengers and crew members from Flight 3379, while Captain Dee read the names of the victims of Fight 3378.

    In a significant part of the ceremony, family members of the deceased passengers and crew, placed flowers on the empty seats as a bell rang out and their names were called. While family members for nearly all the victims were found, when it was not possible for a family member to be present, American Airlines employees and local first responders placed flowers on the empty seats of the deceased. 

“My work on the Holocaust shows that once a memorial is created, it moves from having an emotional impact to having more of an educational impact. Part of the memorialization is not just to go through the mourning and remembering. Those now present at the event, or born afterward, can learn from the event. It becomes meaningful for them too.”

-Karen Remmler, Ph.D., Professor of German Studies, Mount Holyoke College

    Survivors like the employees quoted above, passengers, and families will all attest to the emotional impact that traumatic loss has on all directly and indirectly involved. Yet, there is an educational component that helps survivors move forward in their lives. Flight 3378 family survivor, Linda Wiggs provides an example of how everything about the Memorial, including the mere knowledge that it was finally happening, helped her heal.

Flight 3378 Family Survivor, Linda Wiggs

    Linda’s only son, Christopher Bage Wells, had just turned thirteen on Valentine's Day, when he died on Flight 3378, February 19, 1988. Linda was left with her family and friends to bury her son without any acknowledgment from the airline—as this accident occurred before Care Teams came to be. When news about plans for building the Memorial appeared in her local newspaper, Linda reached out to the Foundation and pledged her support financially, emotionally, and psychologically.  

    Speaking with Linda about the Memorial revealed the number of ways the Memorial affected her. She started with comments on meeting representatives from the airline after so many years of feeling isolated and forgotten.

I did not want to meet anyone from American. But when I met Lisa and Lauren (both with the Care Team at the time of the accidents), things began to change for me. They were the first people to say how sorry they were about the crash and Bage's death. I waited a long time to hear it, and I realized that I had misjudged the company. I thought that maybe “these people are not all bad and evil.” Linda spoke with tears in her eyes, and her voice broke as she reflected on years of suffering.

    Speaking specifically about what the Memorial means to her, Linda expressed current and long-term thoughts about its meaning.

     It’s an honor for them (passengers and crew) to be remembered. To know they did not die in vain. People will read about them and their circumstances. I now have a place to go to remember Bage, other than the cemetery or the airport. The Memorial provides a place where I can feel close to him. I can go there for comfort and feel stronger. It gives me peace.


    Near the first anniversary of the Memorial's dedication, Linda sent a picture of her step-granddaughter visiting the Memorial with her. It was proof that Linda feels connected to the Memorial there at Carpenter Park. She indeed shares Bage and her life experience with others who will help carry her memories of Bage into the future —and now there is a place to visit, as tangible proof that others did and still do care about her, Bage, and her suffering.

For good or ill, memorializing is a part of human nature. Memorials are a way to say we respect and will not forget the dead.

-Karen Remmler, Ph.D.


    Most grief experts agree that remembering is better than forgetting, as it helps us integrate and heal from experience. At the Foundation, as we look back over the five years since the dedication of the American Eagle Flights 3378 & 3379 Memorial, we express our gratitude to everyone who helped create the Memorial. We start with American Airlines, whose financial donation kick-started the fundraising, and the leaders in Cary, NC, who allocated space in Carpenter Park. In addition to these contributions, we wish to thank everyone who helped bring the dream of the Memorial long held by the Anderson family and Captain Dee to fruition. While this article referenced only a few examples of how our collective efforts helped with healing—over the years, we have heard from other families and employees, all who attest to to the significance of the Memorial. 

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