Nineteen years ago July 17, 1996 – a Wednesday – I recall taking a dip in the pool at work. It was late afternoon but the cool waters felt great. My job as a caregiver very stressful at times. The sun was setting as I toweled off and headed home.
While dining from the comfort of my apartment I watched the news. It was then I learned of the horrible explosion of TWA 800. I watched with horror as the live shots from NY waters filled my tv screen. The next day the catastrophe became very personal as I learned I knew three of the victims, Pam Lychner, her young daughters Shannon and Katie.
My mind was filled with grief as I remembered the young family – whose lives were privileged, private schools, nice two story home with a generous pool in the back yard. I had known Pam and her husband Joe via my involvement with Justice For All – a victim’s rights group in Houston. Pam herself had been assaulted and very nearly lost her life when she worked as a realtor.
I had last seen Pam at the vet’s in Spring Branch with her dog Abbey – a few weeks before. I remember parents who taught their young girls to respect others. A year or so before the explosion Justice For All participated in a downtown event. I volunteered to man the booth and arrived to see Shannon and Katie sitting at the booth. I asked if they wanted a peppermint? Shannon replied she did not like peppermint. Joe immediately commented that Cheryl did not ask you if you liked peppermint? She asked you if you wanted a peppermint? At that point Pam joined the conversation and remarked they were going to have a discussion when they got home regarding their manners. The girls mumbled an apology. So many kids are spoiled and rude to anyone if and when they feel the need. The Lychners did not allow such behavior and I applauded them. It said something about them.
Many of us who had known Pam were unable to put into words the loss we felt. Pam was very attractive, spoke articulately and was an excellent public relations person. Joe was surrounded by friends and family. We closed ranks and vowed to continue the fight in Pam’s memory. The funeral was a virtual Whose Who of Houston as well as nationally known politicians. Second Baptist was the site of song and stories from Shannon and Katie’s classmates. Many of those young girls openly wept. The sun was bright and hot and cast an array of colors through the stained glass windows.
Later a lunch was served at the Lychner home. Pam’s parents stood silently by – wept unashamed. I walked to the back yard and watched children play. The water in the pool rippled and the swings as in on cue moved. The day was filled with good thoughts.
I saw Joe on occasion. My friends and I would laugh and state there were women taking numbers hoping to be the second Mrs. Lychner. A year later at a park located just down the street from the vet’s office where I had last seen Pam -a beautiful statute of Pam and the girls was dedicated. The statue would welcome all who visit the park. It was another day of reflection and a time to create another Pam and the girls memory.
Time moved on. Joe did marry and moved away. He has another family now. I hope his days are full and he is happy. I know he felt tremendous guilt. He had not caught the plane to Paris that day. He had planned to join them later. He once remarked perhaps had he been there he could have saved his girls? A few years ago I stopped off at the park and sat down beside the statute of Pam and her girls. Despite the brutal Texas weather the monument is in amazing condition. I think of the two blonde girls who would now be 29 and 27. Pam would be 56. Would be – such big words. I remind myself yet again that none of us has tomorrow and we need to realize that each day is a gift. Each day is to be cherished.