After careful planning and much contemplation, a memorial to the victims of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 is taking shape at the site of the tragedy in Clarence Center.
Work began last week and is expected to be completed by the end of November, if not sooner, said Michael B. Powers, a Phillips Lytle LLP partner and president of Remember Flight 3407 Inc., the nonprofit organization that has guided the creation of the memorial.
The memorial will be subtle, but rich with symbolism, honoring the 49 people on the plane who died and Doug Wielinski, who was killed in the Long Street home where the plane crashed on the night of Feb. 12, 2009.
"We tried to design something that would be small, reverent and compatible with the neighborhood," said Powers, who is also a Clarence town justice. "That was the board's goal and something Karen [Wielinski, Doug's widow] was insistent on. And the neighbors have been wonderful. We recognize it has been very difficult for them."
Workers this week were creating a walkway, in the shape of an airplane wing, that will be as long as the plane. There will be 12 pear trees -- reflecting the date of the accident -- and a crimson king maple in memory of Doug Wielinski. The address of the house, 6038, will be part of the memorial, as a reminder that a home once stood there.
The walkway will consist of 51 steppingstones, one for each victim, including the unborn child of one of the passengers, Powers said. At the end of the walkway will be a bench and a wall, displaying the names of those who lost their lives.
The pear trees will be planted so they angle inward as a visitor approaches the bench and wall, creating a secluded place for reflection. The walkway is designed so that visitors' footsteps grow quieter as they pass where the house stood, and again as they near the bench and wall.
"It will actually be an audio reminder and another moment of reverence and silence for the actual site of the crash," Powers said.
There will be symbolism as visitors walk out, as well. "When you leave, it will be opening back up to the world and life on the outside," Powers said.
The features reflect the many ideas that a subcommittee, led by Lori Adams, gathered and considered as plans for the memorial developed. Joseph D'Angelo, then a graduate student at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, worked to pull those ideas together, Powers said.
Architecture Unlimited, a local firm, has coordinated the construction, after taking the ideas that were gathered and determining how to apply them at the site.
"We appreciate that they invited us in, and we see our role more as support, so we've tried to stay quiet about it," said Kenneth Pearl, the firm's president, who lives in Clarence Center. Pearl said the firm has kept in mind creating an intimate memorial geared toward the family and friends of the victims.
Powers estimated that the Long Street memorial will cost $75,000, a figure that excludes the $15,000 worth of stone donated by Stone Art Memorial.
Contributions for the memorial have come from a variety of sources, including businesses, organizations, fundraisers and individuals. Phillips Lytle donated the establishment of the nonprofit organization.
Powers praised the members of Remember Flight 3407 Inc.'s board for their efforts. "It's really quite an extraordinary board of concerned people who put a lot of time in to get this done," he said.
At the Long Street site, Michael Trenz, a job foreman with Woodstream Nurseries, was observing the progress. "By the end of next week, we should have some granite in here, and you'll start to see the shape," he said.
Trenz grew up in Clarence, so the project is especially meaningful to him.
"No doubt," he said. "It's an important thing that needs to be done. You can't let the people be forgotten. This is what Karen wanted, as opposed to having an empty lot."
The design is meant to have minimal impact on the neighborhood, with no lighting and no parking lot. A vacant lot is on one side of the memorial site, and a house is on the other side.
Town Supervisor Scott A. Bylewski said he believes that the project is sensitive to those who live on the street. "It's going to blend in with the neighborhood at the end of the day. They've been very understanding of the neighbors and the Long Street residents."
Remember Flight 3407 Inc. has raised about $350,000 in contributions. Still to come is a civic memorial, expected to be built near Town Hall and the Clarence Public Library. But the Long Street memorial was the priority, and the plan is to make the civic memorial compatible with it, Powers said.
Reflecting on the work of so many people that has gone into the Long Street project, Powers said: "I think it has produced an excellent, meaningful memorial."