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What is the significance of Swissair Flight 111?

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On 2 September 1998, an aircraft on a scheduled flight from New York, United States to Geneva, Switzerland crashed into St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia, with the loss of all aboard. The initial search and rescue response, crash recovery operation, and resulting investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada took over four years. The official government report stated that flammable material used in the aircraft's structure were inadequate in that they allowed a fire to spread beyond the control of the crew and ultimately led to the loss of control and the crash of the aircraft. The crash site was eight kilometres from shore and the communities of Peggy's Cove and Blandford were central to the recovery operation following the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

At the request of family and community members, two quiet, modest memorial sites have been dedicated to the victims of the disaster and are consistent with the coastal environment. The Whalesback and Bayswater Beach sites were chosen for their proximity to those communities and because they have view lines to the crash site and each other. The Whalesback site is a promontory approximately one kilometer of Peggy's Cove. The site consists of two engraved memorial stones with benches to reflect on the tragic passing of all those aboard. The dedication stone reads: "IN MEMORY OF THE 229 MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN ABOARD SWISSAIR FLIGHT 111 WHO PERISHED OFF THESE SHORES SEPTEMBER 2, 1998" - "THEY HAVE BEEN JOINED TO THE SEA AND THE SKY" - "MAY THEY REST IN PEACE". The second memorial stone is erected "IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF ALL THOSE WHO WORKED TIRELESSLY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN THE RECOVERY OPERATIONS AND COMFORT TO THE FAMILIES AND THEIR FRIENDS DURING A TIME OF DISTRESS". The second and larger memorial site is located at Bayswater on the Aspotogan Peninsula on the western shore of the bay. Here, the unidentified remains of the victims are interred and inscribed on the memorial wall are the names of the 229 passengers and crew of flight 111. The three sites combined – Whalesback, Bayswater, and the actual crash site - make a triangular shape, which is reflected in the design of the memorials.

On this day, 2 September 2022, we commemorate the 24th anniversary of the 229 passengers and crew who perished in the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

André M. Levesque

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