Remembering SWISSAIR 111
September 2, 1998
“I don’t talk about the gruesome details that we saw – that’s just sort of something you keep to yourself and bottle up inside yourself and that’s why I had to go reach out for help because keeping it all inside wasn’t a good idea. I got affected by PTSD over this… Yes, it was gruesome, but you don’t realize how gruesome it is until you get back to your own world and that’s when it slowly, over time, starts to eat at you.”
– Retired Chief Warrant Officer Art Davis of Sydney was with the medical unit at CFB Shearwater at the time of the crash.
“I saw wives and children grieving for husbands and fathers, and parents grieving for their daughter or son. Everyone had a story to tell. As volunteers, our role was to listen.
“One lady confided that she was to be married in six weeks and her fiancé was on that plane. She sat at the seaside writing messages on seashells and placing them in the water. This was her way of saying goodbye. One father and mother told me that they had given this trip to their son as a graduation gift.”
– Desmond Dillon of Gander, N.L., was a Red Cross volunteer who was assigned to assist families of the victims as they gathered along the shoreline.
“(The airline company) had it set up with ground search and rescue people, with barricades all around on the rocks, and they basically channeled groups of families down and we, as chaplains, went with them because they were afraid that someone could – in the emotion of the moment – jump off the rocks. That was a concern, so there were ground search and rescue people who were on tethers to respond if that happened… (The memories are) just like pressing the replay button. You can take yourself back to various scenes from down there. One of those experiences is more than enough in a lifetime. It was pretty traumatic.”
– Rev. A.D. (Bill) Newell of Yarmouth who was one of the RCMP chaplains at the scene of the crash.
“At first the sea offered nothing out of the ordinary. Then there were bits and pieces. Small debris floating on the surface, mostly unrecognizable – paper and plastics I suppose. The first thing I thought I could recognize was what looked maybe like a foam shoulder pad, perhaps from a woman’s blouse. Maybe not. You knew the fragments had belonged to someone. They bobbed in the black waves.”
– Brad Works, now managing editor for the Journal Pioneer in Summerside, was on scene the day after the crash, covering the event as a freelance journalist.
“The days afterward will stick with me the most. Busload after busload of literally hundreds of grief-stricken, shattered relatives of the passengers and crew, coming to stare out to sea, trying to make some sense of it. They stood on the same rocks, earlier frequented by so many travellers on a pleasant holiday. Some of them threw flowers into the sea. They huddled, embraced each other and returned to their bus, only to be replaced with more grief-stricken people. “One woman, escorted by Red Cross, handed her infant to one volunteer and tried throwing herself into the sea, but volunteers quickly stopped her and took her into care.”
– Tim Krochak, a multimedia journalist with The Chronicle Herald, who covered the events on the days following the crash.
“One of the things we wanted to do too was recover any personal effects. (For example) there was a wedding album. That was one of the things that, I think, really affected some members of the team, especially one particular member who just, the day after the crash, had left for his honeymoon. I remember a year later in Sheet Harbour (as part of the crash investigation), one of the things that was found was a wedding ring with an engraved inscription and I can only imagine how valuable that would be to the spouse that was left behind, to have something tangible to remember her loved one by.”
– Gil Dares of Yarmouth was an RCMP officer and volunteer who participated in the recovery efforts.