(WSVN) – Decades after a deadly plane crash in South Florida, a surviving flight attendant has made it her mission to never forget the passengers and crew who lost their lives.
Beverly Raposa, crash survivor: “Oh, my gosh, to finally see it. Oh, my gosh.”
This is a moment decades in the making for former flight attendant Beverly Raposa.
Beverly Raposa: “All the hours, the frustrations, it’s all worth it.”
Fifty years ago, Beverly was working as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines. She was scheduled to work on flight 401, heading from John F. Kennedy to Miami International Airport on the night of Dec. 29, 1972.
Beverly Raposa: “And that picture was taken, Karen, just before we left. Little did I know, the night was young.”
The flight never reached its destination.
The plane lost altitude and crashed in the Everglades.
Beverly Raposa: “This is the first catastrophic accident of a wide-bodied jet.”
One hundred and seventy-six people were on board; 101 died, but Beverly survived.
This is video of her being interviewed by reporters after being rescued.
Beverly Raposa: “We just crashed, and I mean, no warning whatsoever. There was dead silence, I mean just dead silence. It was a couple minutes. I was struggling to try and get out of my situation because I was pinned in.”
After Beverly freed herself from the wreckage, she says her training as a flight attendant kicked in.
Beverly Raposa: “So I kept yelling to people, ‘I’m a stewardess’ — back then we were stewardesses, not flight attendants — ‘I’m a stewardess, if you hear my voice, come towards me.’ You hope that you’re going to do the best you can, but you never know until you face situations, either.”
Fifteen years after the crash, she and other survivors came up with a plan to create a tribute for the victims.
Beverly Raposa: “We weren’t able to raise the funds for it. We were trying to find a location for it. I kept trying to restart this about five or six times.”
But Beverly never gave up, and back in January, nearly 50 years after the crash of flight 401, her dream came true.
Beverly Raposa: “So we’ve put it together in 11 months, and I call it the memorial.”
Beverly and her fellow survivors raised the money to create this more than 2,000-pound granite monument. It is fitted with a plaque bearing the names of the 101 passengers and crew who died.
Beverly Raposa: “Oh, my gosh. To see it! Wow.”
Survivors and families will have a dedication at the monument site on Dec. 29, and Beverly feels she has finally completed her duties for flight 401.
Beverly Raposa: “I have to tell them. You’re home. I can look up for once, the day of the dedication and say, ‘We did it, we love you, and you will never be forgotten. Never.’”
The memorial is in Miami Springs and sits a half mile from the runway where the flight was supposed to land.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
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