Buffalo, New York- January 4, 2010 – As Americans across the country celebrated the holidays with family gatherings, religious observances, and gift giving, it was a different feeling for the families of victims of Continental Flight 3407. Nearing eleven months after the Continental Express flight operated by Colgan Air crashed into a home in Clarence Center, New York, taking the lives of forty nine passengers, an unborn baby, and a person on the ground, their families experienced their first December holiday season without their loved ones.
“Elly was the spark in our family,” stated Laura Kausner Voigt, who lost her 24-year old sister Ellyce Kausner, a law student at the Florida Coastal School of Law. “This Christmas felt heavy. With every happy moment we enjoyed, we were reminded that Elly should be there to share it with us, but we celebrated the way we always do, because Elly would have wanted that for all of us.
In honor of her sister, Voigt started ‘Elly’s Angels’, a group dedicated to serving the Buffalo community, particularly providing financial assistance for the adoption of special needs infants. The group held a fundraiser on December 26th, entitled “Elf Night”, celebrating Elly’s spirit and supporting the Foundation.
It also was far from Christmas-as-usual for the family of passenger Ronald Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a 45-year old Director of the New Brunswick School-based Youth Services Program in New Brunswick, New Jersey (originally from Bronx, New York) left behind a mother, four brothers and sisters, twelve nieces and nephews, and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
“Ron was in love with life and his willingness to make a difference in the lives of others, especially children, was his gift to the world,” said his sister Rebecca Gonzalez of Westchester, New York. “Without his spark, this holiday season just was not the same. For him and all the other victims, we stand strong, praying and urging that our nation’s leaders implement mandates regarding airline safety.”
And for Nicole Borner, who just completed her freshman season on the soccer team at Binghamton University without her father and biggest fan, 49-year old David Borner, this Christmas had a different feel to it as well.
“My dad was always the life of every party, especially during the holidays, and he took great pride in making everyone laugh. He and my mom always worked as a team to make sure my brother and I had a perfect Christmas, never focusing much on themselves,” stated Nicole Borner. “This holiday season, we missed those jokes and there was far less laughter. All the presents in the world would not matter, because nothing could bring back those holidays with my dad that I knew, loved, and took for granted.”
As the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ look to a new year and the fast-approaching one year anniversary of the crash on February 12th, the group prays that their loved ones did not die in vain, as they continue to press Congress and the Obama Administration to take strong steps towards addressing the factors that contributed to the tragedy. They are hopeful that their advocacy ensures that no other families ever have to know the pain and sadness of a loss like this.