Photos: The crash of Flight 191

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WFAA

Posted on August 2, 2010 at 8:10 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 2 at 8:18 PM

D/FW AIRPORT — Twenty-five years ago today, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed on approach to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The accident claimed 135 lives, and it would forever change aviation history.

On Monday morning, loved ones and first responders honored those lives lost in a ceremony, proving time moves on — but the memories remain.

For Cindy Allen, the dedication of a modest granite memorial and plaque at Founders' Plaza commemorating the tragedy means everything. She lost her mom that fateful August day in 1985.

"It means closure for us, because we weren't able to say goodbye," Allen said. "This is a place we can come back again and again."

The plaque, however simple, she says lets her know her mom isn't forgotten. For years to come, she will visit this very spot with a healing heart.

Johnny Meier, is one of the few survivors of the crash. Looking back brings vivid memories.

"The plane started bouncing around," he remembered. "The closer we got to the airport, the quieter the plane got; everyone got scared."

Meier said the storm was so intense, no one could see through the darkness outside their windows.

"It was unbelievable that we were going to try to land with the plane rocking side-to-side," he said.

But the pilots pressed on in what would become the deadliest day ever at D/FW Airport.

"It felt like we were running over railroad tracks, but now we found out the railroad tracks were really the highway and the car we crushed," Meier said.

The first emergency personnel to arrive at the scene rescued Meier from the wreckage in the worst of conditions.

"Responders battled not only fire, but burning fuel, heavy rain, wind, lightning, and neck-deep mud to try to find survivors among the wreckage," said D/FW Airport CEO Jeffrey Fegan.

But from this horrific day came change. New technology and safety requirements are now in place nationwide.

"Delta 191 educated the entire global community about the dangers of thunderstorms and wind shears in a way that no other event had before," Fegan said. "That led the FAA to require wind shear detection equipment aboard all commercial aircraft, and it ushered in new technology like Doppler radar.

That progress gives Cindy Allen comfort, but it doesn't make her miss her mom any less.

"It's bittersweet actually," she said. "It's hard to be here 25 years later for something, such a tragic thing."

New construction of taxiways and the observation area, are, in part, the reason it's taken a quarter of a century to get a permanent memorial in place for Flight 191.

D/FW also created a world-class fire training academy at the airport as a result of the crash. So far, 15,000 firefighters from around the world have been trained to handle the toughest of emergency situations.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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