May 11, 1996, I was working and living in Everglades National Park when I heard the news about ValuJet Flight 592 crashing into the Everglades. The flight had departed Miami International Airport and was bound for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport when a fire in the cargo hold caused the plane to crash. All 110 on board perished.
Three years later, a memorial was dedicated about 12 miles west of Miami’s Krome Avenue on Tamiami Trail. Standing tall on a cement platform shaped like a triangle and pointing in the direction of the plane crash site are 110 gray pillars representing one for each passenger.
For years, when I drove across the Tamiami Trail making my way between Miami and Naples and vice versa, I often looked for the memorial but it never caught my eye. It was only in recent years when I figured out where it was and visited.
I didn’t know anyone on the flight nor do I know anyone who knew anyone on it. I do know someone who was supposed to be on that flight, a coworker at the time, who had changed her travel plans by one day.
I suppose my interest in the site is because I travel. And, because I travel, I wholeheartedly know I assume risk. Yes, there are some precautions I can take to reduce that risk, such as NOT traveling to high-risk countries like Afghanistan (what the eff was I thinking???) but sometimes, things are unavoidable and I’ll just leave it with that.
On Valentine’s Day, following my swamp walk with Clyde Butcher’s Cypress Gallery and quick stop at Shark Valley, I paid my respects at the Flight 592 Memorial. It’s located well outside the national park boundaries and next to a canal lock. Located within sight of the road the setting is peaceful, however, I’m guessing it doesn’t welcome many visitors beyond those who lost loved ones.
Of course, I could be wrong. Mementos and offerings were sprinkled atop the memorial listing the names of those lost. Items included coins, candles, pens, notes written on small pieces of paper and a pair of cigarettes.
God bless those who perished and their loved ones left behind.