MERRILLVILLE | Almost 20 years ago, American Eagle Flight 4184 slammed into a rural Roselawn field, killing 64 passengers and four crew members on board.
Family members and friends of the victims were forced to cope with their losses and deal with with an industry ill-prepared to deal with the disaster on Oct. 31, 1994.
For Jennifer Stansberry Miller, Terri Severin and others, that night grew into a crusade to successfully see the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 put into law.
Stansberry Miller's brother had died, along with Terri Severin's sister and nephew.
The Legacy of American Eagle Flight 4184 will be discussed during a forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Radisson in Merrillville.
The guest speakers include Newton County emergency management director Ray Chambers, who was a first responder that night, and Charley Pereira, a former National Traffic Safety Board investigator, now consultant, who co-authored the NTSB final report.
Also speaking will be Greg Feith, an aviation safety and security expert who was in charge of the Flight 4184 investigation, and Paul Sledzik, director of the Transportation Disaster Assistance Division of the NTSB.
"The goal of the public forum is to provide the families and community a chance to hear about the positive changes the Flight 4184 disaster has had within the aviation industry," Stansberry Miller said.
"It will also provide a platform for the families, especially those who may be visiting for the first time, to ask questions of the individuals charged with either the local response, investigation or transportation disaster assistance," she said.
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While the program is free, reservations are required. Those planning to attend can reserve a seat by going online to www.flight4184.eventbrite.com.
For Stansberry Miller, of Fishers, Ind., and her family, the heartbreak of the loss of her brother was compounded when they received misidentified remains -- one of many missteps made following the investigation.
"It is humbling to know those of us who were able to advocate during the '90s on behalf of all victims of aviation disasters have seen such meaningful change within this country. To observe the evolution of transportation disaster assistance from 1996 until today is indescribable," she said.
As a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives, the Families of 4184 have commissioned the construction of a memorial.
Designed to stand about 3 feet high over a 15 feet length, it will include 68 bricks engraved with the passengers' and crew members' names. It's being built by a mason from DeMotte, Larry Albanese, and his son, Nate.
The current memorial will be reconstructed. For the past 20 years, it been made up of rows of white wooden crosses. It has stood out starkly against the rural Roselawn field into which the plane crashed.
*The Families of 4184 welcome donations to help offset the cost of the brick memorial. An artist's rendering can be seen at www.americaneagleflight4184.com. Donations may be made there online or by sending a check made payable to "Families of 4184". It should be mailed to Families of 4184, 309 East Rand Road, Suite 192, Arlington Heights, Ill., 60004.
Severin -- of suburban Chicago -- has written a book about the tragedy that killed her sister, Patty Henry, and her nephew, Patrick Henry. The book, "In the Wake of the Storm, Living Beyond the Tragedy of Flight 4184," is available in an expanded eBook at www.northcrosspress.com.