Pay­ing trib­ute

New Hampshire woman plan­ning sum­mer pil­grim­age to visit site of brother’s death in Gan­der

The Western Star - - LIFE - NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE CEN­TRAL VOICE ni­[email protected]­cen­tralvoice.ca

When Linda East­man thinks of her brother Mike, of­ten her mind will move to a point in time decades ear­lier than 2019.

It is there she re­mem­bers a time when she and Mike were sit­ting at the din­ner ta­ble with their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers when he asked his sis­ter if she wanted to go to the ceme­tery.

She agreed and off the two went.

Hop­ping in the old pickup truck, the pair headed to­ward one of the many ceme­ter­ies that ex­isted near their homes in New Hampshire.

To Linda’s sur­prise, the truck con­tin­ued a lit­tle ways past the en­trance to this par­tic­u­lar ceme­tery and in­stead turned down an old dirt road that ran along­side.

A lit­tle ways down the road, Mike brought the truck to a stop. He got out and did some­thing he had been do­ing for some time.

Mike started pil­ing rocks in an at­tempt to re­build a sec­tion of a rock wall that had fallen. The wall ran along­side the ceme­tery and Linda ques­tioned why her brother was putting it back to­gether.

“I know these peo­ple aren’t our fam­ily, but they’re some­one’s fam­ily and they deserved to be hon­oured,” he an­swered.

Mov­ing for­ward more than four decades from that ex­change and Linda is tak­ing those words with here later this month when she and her daughter Catherine visit Gan­der for the first time since the Arrow Air Flight 1285 avi­a­tion dis­as­ter in De­cem­ber 1985.

Cap­tain Michael East­man was one of the 248 Amer­i­can ser­vice­men and eight crew mem­bers who died when in the plane crash. They were head­ing to Fort Camp­bell, Ken­tucky. They were a part of the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion had just served a six-month peace­keep­ing mis­sion on the Si­nai Penin­sula in the Mid­dle East.

Her brother was one of the lucky ones, so to speak. He was at the front of the airplane when it crashed on the shores of Gan­der Lake and his body was mostly in­tact. He was able to be iden­ti­fied.

Most, if not all, of the rest were in­cin­er­ated on im­pact.

Echo­ing her brother, Linda will be mak­ing sure to hon­our those whose fam­ily can’t be there. She will serve as proxy for the fam­ily mem­bers of those who died who can’t make the trip to this prov­ince and the Silent Wit­ness Me­mo­rial site just a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres out­side of Gan­der.

The dev­as­tat­ing in­ci­dent wasn’t the first con­nec­tion East­man and her fam­ily had with the New­found­land com­mu­nity or the prov­ince as a whole.

Her uncle flew out of Gan­der dur­ing his ser­vice time and another rel­a­tive of hers served with the United States Navy at the base in Ar­gen­tia, Pla­cen­tia Bay.

Linda was liv­ing in Van­cou­ver, B.C. when she got the call about the crash. She im­me­di­ately headed to the air­port in search of the first avail­able flight to Ken­tucky and Fort Camp­bell.

When she ar­rived there, she met peo­ple from the Town of Gan­der. They were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the town and did their best to com­fort the loved ones of those who per­ished in the in­ci­dent.

She met more from the com­mu­nity at the in­quiry into the crash. Linda was liv­ing in Ot­tawa at the time and was af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to go.

This trip will be cul­mi­na­tion of a plan to get to Gan­der and New­found­land for the bet­ter part of three decades.

There is a say­ing that when you make plans, God laughs and East­man is fa­mil­iar with it.

Her daughter Catherine al­ways said they’d would go to Gan­der to­gether. She was 12 the first time she said it.

And, this year they’ve pledged to get to the com­mu­nity.

For Linda, this won’t be a sad trip. She plans on tak­ing pic­tures, speak­ing to peo­ple who may have helped at the crash site and in the days that fol­lowed and rep­re­sent­ing those connected to the vic­tims that can’t make the trip.

“They treated our sol­diers like fam­ily mem­bers,” said Linda. “I just want to say thank you.

“I am go­ing to be happy. Mike would have loved this.”

CON­TRIBUTED

Linda East­man and her daughter Catherine will be trav­el­ling to Gan­der later this month to hon­our Linda’s brother Mike East­man who died in the Arrow Flight 1285 crash in De­cem­ber 1985.

SALTWIRE NETWORK FILE PHOTO

Mike East­man was one of 248 pas­sen­gers killed aboard the deadly Arrow Flight 1285 crash in 1985. Eight crew mem­bers died in what is known as the dead­li­est avi­a­tion crash to oc­cur on Cana­dian soil.

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