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Canada A chance to say goodbye: Memorial site of horrific Air Canada crash prompts reader memories

Firefighters spray smouldering remains of an Air Canada DC-8 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in this July 5, 1970 file photo. The plane, en route from Montreal to Los Angeles, went down north of the airport, killing all 109 people aboard.

Duncan Woods/CP

We asked readers whether they remembered the crash. Here are some of their responses:

My family and I are incredibly overwhelmed with gratitude to the land developer for building this absolutely beautiful memorial garden, in memory of the victims of that terrible plane crash. My mother and two younger sisters were on that flight. My mother was 39,  my sisters were 8 and 11. I was 13 years old and my dad was 44.

For me and my dad, life as we had known it was over. My mother and sisters were gone. We were no longer a family.

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What made things even more difficult was the way in which tragedies were dealt with back in the 70s. The families of the victims of this plane crash did not have to the opportunity to meet and support each other. That would have helped so much. There was no professional help available to us.

I wanted so badly to talk about my mother and sisters, to hear stories about them, to keep their memory alive. But that just wasn't the way it was back then. We didn't talk about the plane crash, or about my mother and sisters, and we were overwhelmed, frightened, haunted with terror . . . and alone.

What I remember so vividly was feeling as if we had quickly become yesterday's news. I felt as if this plane crash and my shattered life, was long forgotten, as people moved forward with their own lives.

The effects of this tragedy continue on and on.

Lynda Fishman, Toronto

I was 19 years old that summer, and my two very good friends Linda and Lewella Earle, twin 21-year old girls, were on that flight. Lewella was on her way to Los Angeles to get engaged.  When I got home that night and I received a phone call, I was devastated. I was too upset at that time to attend their funeral.  This memorial will finally give me that opportunity to say goodbye.

Leonor Brereton, Oakville, Ont.

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I was the First Officer on an Air Canada DC-9 from New York that was the first aircraft to land after the 621 accident. We were on approach for Runway 33 coming in across Lake Ontario when we were directed to divert to Runway 24. We questioned the change but received no explanation from approach control. As the captain landed our aircraft at Pearson Airport, I looked to our right and saw an engine lying in the infield adjacent to Runway 33. I told the captain about this, but there were no emergency vehicles about and there was an eerie silence on the radio. Upon reaching our gate, one of our ground crew informed us that we had just lost a DC-8.

Howard Malone, Don Mills, Ont.

I was driving along Hwy. 401 past the airport on my way to London, Ont. and watched as the plane came to the runway, bounced,  there was smoke, took off again, then saw it break up in the air. I had to pull over - I was shaking. Not something you forget - even after all this time.

Lance Parson, White Rock, B.C.

I was a young police officer with the Metro Toronto Police. I was assigned to traffic duty on a motorcycle. I spent the day at the crash site helping secure various items in the immediate area. I am very pleased that a memorial garden has been made. It brings a peaceful closure to a terrible day.

Al Gilchrist, Innisfil, Ont.

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I was a young photojournalist just out of school and working for a small photo agency in Toronto. I heard the news of the crash on the radio and drove to the site. It was the first major disaster I covered during my 43-year career. Of all the news stories I have covered since, including the Mississauga train derailment, I will never forget that day. The memorial is long overdue in my mind. Bravo.

Bill Sanford, London, Ont.

I had just moved to Montreal.  People at work suggested I move into the Dixie apartments in Dorval, as this is where a lot of the airline stewardesses stayed.  Sure enough I noticed that my immediate neighbor was someone special and I was looking forward to talking to her over the summer. But then I heard she was on this Air Canada fight and wouldn't be coming back. Sad day for all.

Larry Smyth, Pointe-Claire, Que.

We hung out a bit that summer in Pierrefonds, a suburb of Montreal. I remember him, he was a happy kid, like the rest of us at the time. He was special, coming from L.A. (wow, the Dodgers, Hollywood!) I forget his name now. We said goodbye the day before. He was the little brother, of the brother-in-law, of a girl I was dating then. I loved her. I awoke with the news of a crash that same morning of his flight. The plane they said, was bound for L.A. from Montreal. Could he be on it? Could that be his flight? I learned he was indeed on the plane and had perished. So young, so full of promise. I wonder what  would have become of him.

John McKee, Ottawa

Have never forgotten this as my wife and I were flying to Europe that day. We were sitting in the old Aero Key restaurant with a full view of the engine sitting on the runway. Needless to say we were all tense that day before and during the flight.

Priit Pallopson, Orillia, Ont.

My wife and I were boarding an Air Canada flight home from Heathrow the morning after the crash. The newspaper we were given had the front page missing. We knew something bad had happened. About an hour into the flight, the pilot gave us the terrible news. We'll never forget that tragic event,

Richard Marr, Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island

To this day I have vivid memories of watching the plane on fire as it flew, with parts dropping off in flames, it finally going down producing a huge fireball. I was a caddy at the Board of Trade Country Club, and unfortunately we saw the horrific event unfold to the west of us.

Paul Padley, Houston

Day one of our family vacation to B.C. had us driving east on Steeles Avenue to catch the Hwy 400 north. Mom pointed out the window and said "look at the fire coming out of that plane." We watched as flaming pieces fell off the crippled jet until the entire wing fell off and the plane nosedived and crashed in a fireball into the field well north of us. Traffic had stopped as everyone watched in horror as the events played out. A mile high column of gray smoke rose from the crash site. We continued our trip in silence as everyone knew no one had survived the crash.

Al Phillips, Calgary

I still remember this day, and think of the people who died, when the news broke on my 11th birthday.

Johanna Milic, Toronto

On the previous day, I was already excited, it being my sister's wedding day. But I was really excited, as on the 5th, I was to make for my first ever plane flight, as a sea cadet going to camp at HMCS Quadra. While I did make the trip, and I have nothing but good memories of my stay at the naval base, I also have memories of the scare the news of the crash gave myself and family.

Michael Torzsok, Mississauga, Ont.

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