Remembering KAL Flight 801
August 6, 1997 is a day Guam will never forget. When Korean Air Flight 801 crashed waking up the island to one of the nation's worst air tragedies. KUAM News takes a look back at the survivors, rescuers, and officials who picked up the pieces to make sense of it all. Here's more from our coverage in 1998.
Barry Small, a KAL 801 crash survivor said in 1998, "Everything seemed totally normal to me. The air plane was just in a state of flying. We were all ready for the pilots to land, but the landing just came a bit earlier." Over 200 people died that day on Nimitz Hill. Small, a Guam resident, survived and told his story, badly burned and still reeling from the impact.
One year later, Small spoke with KUAM, saying, he was still trying to make sense of it all - like so many other families flying in to see the aftermath and attempt to gain some sense of closure.
Woo Jin Shim, whose oldest brother was killed in the crash, said "My eldest brother we lost and we can not even recuperate his body." The suffering of family members like him still echo today. A memorial monument representing the lives lost still stands today.
Clifford Guzman, who was at the time of crash the director of Bureau and Planning, said, "It was an unfortunate thing and it also serves as a reminder to all of us how fragile life is and that it is also a a reminder of our ability to pull together and help others and I think that is one of the best lessons we could ever learn."
Young Joo lost her sister and niece died in crash. "First like couple months was kind of hard, but now just coping," she said.
The coping coming after the confusion of that early wake up call many received of an airplane that did not make it to the runway. Many of Guam's first responders risking their own lives to save others. Chief Chuck Sanchez with the Guam Fire Department said, "Before we even started entering into the heavy vegetated area. We could hear people yelling for help crying for help."
GFD's Captain Sal Monteverde added, "We pulled several people out, put them up on the safe zone, and then as we were doing that there were several explosions that were occurring."
Those images seared into our island's memory, captured by KUAM journalists covering the aftermath. Catherine Cruz said, "A year has passed and with that rescuers are hoping that time will heal all emotional wounds. And although the healing process has begun, it is hard to say just how long it will last."
That process continues.