Families of those killed on Delta Flight 723 gathered at Logan International Airport’s chapel Sunday morning for a memorial Mass, marking the the 50th anniversary of the worst plane crash in New England’s history.
The crash, which killed all 89 on board, occurred July 31, 1973. Despite the passage of a half-century, the grief remains fresh, and Sunday’s service offered a rare opportunity to meet others who share a lasting pain.
The Rev. Christopher O’Connor, the Catholic chaplain of Our Lady of the Airways chapel, began the morning by reading out the names of each victim, just before 9 a.m.
“Look at this crowd here, this beautiful legacy of people,” O’Connor said of the more than 100 people seated before him. “What a great testimony to your love for your deceased loved ones to be here.”
Visitors continued trickling in as O’Connor recited the names. The chapel — minutes earlier filled with footsteps and whispered greetings — was quiet, save for the shutter of cameras, the cooing of a baby, and the muffled bustle of fliers picking up their bags just a few steps out the door.
Following the Mass, O’Connor stepped to the back of the chapel, where a granite plaque dedicated to the victims was recently installed on a brick wall. He sprinkled holy water on the plaque engraved with the words “You shall remain forever in our hearts.”
O’Connor said many he spoke with were so overcome by tragedy that they barely recalled the funeral services held five decades ago.
“But they’ll remember this,” he said. “This was their opportunity to grieve and to be comforted.”
Michael Fuller, whose aunt and uncle, Peggy and Joe Fuller, were killed in the crash, said Sunday’s service was “an acknowledgement” of his and other families’ pain and an opportunity to finally say goodbye.
He wore a black and white photo of Peggy and Joe on his right breast, as did other members of the Fuller family. After the crash, “we went from a family of two to a family of four,” he said, as Fuller’s parents adopted his orphaned cousins.
“This is really the first time that I think that we’ve addressed this, truly addressed it,” Fuller said. “It just happened, and everybody moved on. And I don’t believe that we really brought closure until now.”
Andrea Norwood, 79, flew in from Texas with her son, Albert Holzscheiter, to honor their husband and father, Albert J. Holzscheiter, killed in the crash. She said it seemed impossible that 50 years had passed.
“I hate the word ‘closure.’ It doesn’t exist,” Norwood said. “You go on. You find out that you have to get out of bed, and you have to do things, and you have to eat. It just goes on.”
Still, she said O’Connor’s remarks “struck all the right notes” to make getting out of bed a little easier moving forward.
For Michelle Brennen, who organized the service after years connecting with other families touched by the tragedy, the morning brought a sense of community and shared understanding.
“I’m hoping that other people felt that,” Brennen said. “There were a lot of emotions. So it was hard to really read people, if this was a good thing or not a good thing.”
Holzscheiter, 53, said he was on the verge of skipping the service on Saturday night. Thinking toward Sunday morning summoned a surge of “feelings I hadn’t ever processed,” he said. He cited anger, saying it felt like he was beginning the five stages of grief anew.
But as he stood and admired the plaque with his mother, Holzscheiter said the service had brought him a long-awaited feeling of solace.
“I was 3, so I didn’t [understand] a funeral,” he said. “I think we’re going to get some peace out of it.”