Family members gather to remember Flight 255 victims - FOX 32 News Chicago

Family members gather to remember Flight 255 victims

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Family members polish a monument by Detroit Metro Airport.  (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com) Family members polish a monument by Detroit Metro Airport. (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com)
ROMULUS, Mich. (WJBK) -

People from Michigan and all over the country were at the edge of Detroit Metro Airport Wednesday remembering loved ones lost on Flight 255, like 23-year-old U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Christine Hoffman.

"She was home for the weekend, a very short weekend," said sister Aimee Hoffman-Moore.

Christine was returning to her army job after a family visit in Erie, Pennsylvania.

"By the time we got home, sitting there watching the evening news, a strip came by.  Her plane crashed," said her father, Thomas Hoffman.

23-year-old Michael Zanger and 26-year-old Hollins Langton were engaged and planning a wedding in Monroe.

"It's an ongoing healing process that probably won't complete itself until we're with them," said brother Tony Zanger.

Family members of the victims were cleaning and polishing the monument, which was paid for by the families.  They will assemble for memorial service Thursday night at 8:46 p.m., the time of the crash.

"My grandfather was going to Arizona on business and his business partner was supposed to leave that night and they had to switch flights kind of last minute," said Leff Krappitz.

"If you sit there and you think about it, it makes you cry.  It makes you sad, but we go there for the camaraderie with other people and the support group, which has been very helpful," said Mary Ann Ratliff, who lost her daughter.

"I think it's a place where you feel their spirit.  This is my personal opinion that they're still there, but it's a place of peace.  But yet when you think about the tragedy, there's also chaos," said Susan Moy, who lost her sister.

Firefighter John Thede saw that chaos.  The 21-year-old responded as a Romulus firefighter.  He had been on the job for a year and a half.

"Victims, debris, spot fires, parts of the plane, maybe just a tire, a part of a wing.  Probably the most eerie thing to me is I could see maybe like a can of cola that was untouched.  It looked like you just pulled it off a shelf, and then you would see so much destruction on something else, and it was just hard to believe."

Now Lieutenant Thede with Romulus Fire, he helped rescue the crash's miracle child, four-year-old Cecelia Cichan.  The backboard she was placed on is displayed at Romulus Fire Station Four on Eureka Road.  Thede has stayed in contact with Cecelia, who is now 29.

"I was invited to her wedding in 2006, and we talk," he said.  "We talk sports.  She's happy.  She's married.  Successful college grad working. And she thinks about it all the time also.  To be four years old and to go through something like that, it's just got to be an experience I couldn't even fathom right now."

In all, 154 were killed on the flight and two on the ground.

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