CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. (WIVB) - This Thanksgiving, while many people will count their blessings for the family they have, some are remembering the loved ones they have lost.
For relatives of Flight 3407 victims, the holiday comes as a memorial takes shape in Clarence Center.
The 3407 memorial is nearly complete. Victims' names are ready to be etched into the stones, lining the walkway. Two widows visited the sacred ground, spending time with their loved ones, right before Thanksgiving.
Like so many others, Jennifer West and Robin Tolsma are thankful for their families, this holiday season, but this year is different.
Tolsma said, "I'm with my whole family tomorrow, and there's that empty chair. And, you know, they're so missed."
Both are thankful for a place to come and remember their husbands nearly three years after the deadly crash of Flight 3407.
"It's sad. This should not be here. They should be home with us and we should be worrying about Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and do we have enough food, and decorating for Christmas the day after. But they're not here, so we prepare and we plan and do everything by ourselves now and look to each other for support," said Tolsma.
And there's solace in that support. The trees, the 51 stepping stones, each marking the lives of the 49 passengers on board, one who was pregnant, and one man who died in his Long Street home.
Tolsma said, "This was their last spot, this is where they left this Earth right here. So to come back here it definitely has meaning for us."
It's the hardest during the holidays, they say. West's daughter, Summer, was brought to tears after a Thanksgiving school play.
West said, "She's been talking about him being an angel, daddy being an angel. She's been drawing a lot of pictures of us, so she walks up and says, "My name is Summer West and I'm thankful for my mom," and I started crying. I'm thinking, people don't realize, how thankful, to have two parents. I know she's not the only one who doesn't have two parents, but this accident has completely preventable and it's heart breaking to see she doesn't have her daddy with her."
They laid a single rose, each, marking their husbands' lives. Both are reflecting on how hard these three years have been for their families.
There is no word on when, exactly, the memorial will be finished, although an unveiling is scheduled for late spring. Both West and Tolsma will be in federal court for the next hearing, next month.
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