The TWA Flight 800 disaster on July 17th marks the 14th anniversary of the tragedy which resulted in the deaths of 230 people and damaged the lives of many others. People around the world will never forget the moment when this heartbreaking event occurred and is still affecting the Long Island community. 230 lives were lost on that summer eve, and the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial and Gardens was erected in 2002 at Smith Point County Park, a part of Shirley, New York. In addition, it is an acknowledgement of the support that has never stopped coming from the community since the crash.
The Independent Group Home Living Program (IGHL), a local non-profit devoted to providing lifetime alternatives to people with developmental disabilities, has spearheaded this support program since it began more than a decade ago. IGHL offered the possibility of providing perpetual maintenance of the Memorial and its surrounding gardens after meeting the families on the second anniversary.
IGHL has collaborated with Busch Associates (an architectural firm based in Bay Shore) and members of the Flight 800 families to redesign, build, and maintain the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial and Gardens. In the last eight years, the maintenance program of the Memorial has provided an opportunity for people with disabilities to serve as part of a community-based program. Throughout the Memorial, horticultural staff and volunteers provide support to participants in maintaining the contemplative gardens. An arboretum, the nation's first, has been developed around these gardens as a seaside garden.
There are over 60 people with disabilities who work in the memorial's maintenance. In addition there are 30 people employed at The Flower Barn in Moriches, a nursery that is part of IGHL and that grows many of the 10,000 plants around the Memorial. In The Flower Barn, flower seeds are planted and grown into an array of beautiful flowers chosen by the families of those who lost their lives on Flight 800. "I find it very satisfying to work with the disabled individuals that grow our flowers, to see the joy they feel knowing that their flowers will go to a very special place," said John Seaman, Chairman of the Flight 800 Family Association. He continued, "It's especially nice seeing their plants in full bloom surround the Memorial and fill it with beauty and fill it with color and beauty that they created. It makes them especially proud."
The Flower Barn is one of several elements of the memorial which are maintained throughout the year. Another important element of the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial and Gardens is the 12 foot black granite wall inscribed with the 230 names of the victims of the crash.
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