Thursday, July 15, 2010

Angel Clouds and Rainbows

by Paula Matter

The following was originally posted one year ago.

There are times I remember precisely where I was when a legendary event happened. The following are most prevalent and come to my mind readily:

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Robert Kennedy's assassination

Dwight D. Eisenhower's death

Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon

John Lennon's assassination

Challenger explosion

September 11, 2001

Huge emotional events that effected America, the nation, the world.

I never experienced a profound tragedy firsthand.

Until July 17, 1996.

If you live in my small, quiet borough, you'll know that date. It's forever etched in our minds, our hearts. Thirteen years ago tomorrow, we lost 16 high school students and five adult chaperones in the TWA Flight 800 crash.

For days, weeks, months after this tragedy, our tiny town mourned. As a community we stuck together as we attended funeral after funeral after funeral.

And we endured.

The angel visited us in the evening of July 21, 1996. She appeared as a cloud over the high school, and lingered long enough for many to see her.

Twenty-one smaller white clouds appeared at the angel's feet, at first in a circle, then formed two straight rows.

The first of many rainbows also appeared that evening. Two beautiful rainbows arched over us until the sun set.

It wasn't unusual to hear reports of more rainbows suddenly appearing. They were spotted at soccer games, track meets, swim meets.

One month after the crash, on August 17, 1996, we held a community memorial. Thousands of people gathered in the high school football field. Minutes before the service started, a gorgeous rainbow appeared. Those of us who live here weren't surprised, and we were happy to share it with so many others. The rainbow disappeared five minutes or so after the service ended.

Closure and comfort came in other ways too. Finally, after six very long weeks, the last body from our town was recovered and brought home. I remember that day well. A customer told me, "They found her." And we cried together.

On July 17, 1999, the Memorial Park opened on the grounds of the high school. I went there a few days ago to take new photos to share with you.

The names of our town's twenty-one victims.

This ceramic angel sits on the base.

Our angel.

Engraving on one side.

Surrounded by twenty-one maple trees,
our angel stands.
Forever in our hearts.


Annette said...

You've given me chills, Paula.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What a powerful story, Paula. Thanks for sharing it. I'm like Annette...I've got chill-bumps.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Joyce said...

Me, too. Beautiful tribute, Paula.

Pat said...

It brought me to tears. Thanks for sharing this.

Jamie Saloff said...

Paula, nice memorial - they are not forgotten. They will live on in hearts and minds and they watch over you all and smile.

Jennie Bentley said...

Chills here as well. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Paula, what a wonderful tribute. You brought tears to my eyes.

Working Stiffs said...

I truly wish I'd been able to upload and share the actual photo of the angel.

Alas, copyright issues.

A local man took a photo and proceeds from selling copies held pay for the memorial park.


Susan O'Brien said...

So beautiful. Thank you for sharing. And thanks for your post about the photo.

Working Stiffs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eloisehill said...


Thank you for the story and beautiful photos. I am a nurse/mystery writer/psychic and I can not tell you the number of times clients have come to me, after the death of loved ones, with stories of unexplained rainbows, flocks of birds, feathers dropping into their hands, music coming out of nowhere, etc. showing up at a time when they most needed healing from a loss. You made my morning...

queenofmean said...

I, too, got the chills reading your story. It must have been such a devasting time for your town. The angel and rainbows must have been a great source of comfort to all of you.

John said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Paula.

Laurissa said...

Paula, thanks for sharing. What a lovely memorial.

Patg said...

When I read the first list, I felt bad because I can only remember where I was for 2.
But I most assuredly remember the TWA crash. Not the date, but the events and announcement and the aftermath. Especially the aftermath. But then I was in the industry.
So sad!