It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since Flight 255 crashed just after leaving Detroit Metro Airport.
The plane bound for Phoenix, crashing shortly after takeoff onto Middlebelt Road and eventually I-94. In total, 156 people were killed, but incredibly one person survived.
Cecilia Cichan was just 4 years old when her mother, father and brother were killed on that flight. She is now married, has a baby and lives near family in Pennsylvania.
Over the years, I’ve become friends with the firefighter that saved her that August night. Captain John Thiede has kept me up to date on how she’s doing and he took us through exactly what happened that night moments after the crash. He was a young firefighter who was stunned to see part of the cockpit on the roadway as he pulled up. He has a special connection with Cecilia, as you can imagine, and he talks about their relationship.
I also sat down with family members of the victims. I think people often forget how much the family members did to change aviation. They worked to pass legislation to improve not only safety procedures, but also to protect families from and to keep them informed after air disasters.
I think about this crash often, especially as I exit onto Middlebelt. So many lives lost in an instant, and again, on August 16, those connected by the crash will gather at the memorial just off airport property to remember what happened and to honor those who died far too soon.