If a disaster of the magnitude of the crash of Swissair Flight 111 had to happen anywhere, from the perspective of the victims’ families there may have been no better place than the waters off Peggy’s Cove.
One of Nova Scotia’s most popular tourists attractions became the centre of tragedy on the night of Sept. 2 when the plane headed for Geneva from New York plunged into the sea a few kilometres offshore, killing all 229 passengers and crew.
“I will never be able to look out over the water from the cove again without thinking about them,” said Rev. Richard Walsh of Hackett’s Cove, the multi-point parish that includes Peggy’s Cove. “Spiritually, they are now part of our community.”
Rev. Arthur Nash, regional dean for the area, spent a lot of time with the victims’ families as they arrived in the area. Once the shock of the tragedy began to wear off, many of them remarked they couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful memorial site for their loved ones.
“I don’t know how many people said, `We want to come back again because it’s such a beautiful spot.'”
Family members also praised the quick actions of the fishermen who had raced to their boats to hunt for survivors and the hospitality of the local communities.
The impact of the crash that night shook houses all along the rocky coast. By dawn it was obvious there would be no survivors. The aircraft had disintegrated into innumerable pieces on impact and so had the people inside.
The effect on anyone who visited the floating charnel house the next morning was obvious: returning fishermen who were interviewed before the RCMP sealed off the whole area had the closed look of men who had been inside a war zone. The would-be rescuers became survivors who needed healing and comfort.
“It will be weeks, maybe months before some of them will talk about it,” said Fr. Walsh who admitted he too was overwhelmed by it all.
People volunteered their cars and themselves as drivers, they offered rooms and whole houses to visitors and brought food round the clock when the Sou’wester Restaurant at Peggy’s Cove was overwhelmed with police, search and rescue staff, the Coast Guard, the military and international media.