Families, first responders honoured during Swissair 20th anniversary service

HALIFAX - Stephen Thompson clutched a tissue Sunday afternoon, unable to hold back tears during an emotional service honouring his father and 228 others who died in a horrific airplane crash 20 years ago.

Thompson attended the service along with others who lost loved ones when Swissair Flight 111 from New York City to Geneva crashed into Nova Scotian waters on the evening of Sept. 2, 1998, leaving no survivors.

During the service at the Swissair Memorial Site in Bayswater, N.S., Rev. Louis Quennelle of the Anglican Parish of Blandford told the dozens gathered for the ceremony that while the events on that night were tragic, they helped bring many communities and friendships together.

He noted that it's important to remember the first responders who helped in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Family members of the victims laid flowers at the foot of the large granite memorial, erected overlooking the water where the passenger plane violently ended its final flight about eight kilometres offshore.

The disaster, which began with an electrical fire that spread through the cockpit and caused a catastrophic failure, eventually led to improved safety measures on planes, including certain flammable materials no longer being used on aircraft.