So I am a survivor of Flight 401. My name is Françoise Riette, I am French and I was working for the United Nations in New York at that time. Coming from New York that night, I was scheduled to continue to Mexico-City two days later.
I went through every page of the website with great interest. The amount of information gathered is amazing, much of it I was completely unaware of. Reading the postings brought back so many memories and I was deeply touched, moved to tears, feeling closer to survivors and to those who lost their lives. Needless to say, since 1972 memories of what happened that night are still in my mind and will remain so for the rest of my life; that 29 December 1972 night was in fact very close to my 25th birthday (born December 30).
I learned about Mr Robert Marquis who was the first rescuer on the scene, a remarkable man indeed; obviously without him many more people would have died. Rescuers did a really great job. Personally, I cannot forget the one who pulled me out from the mud and torn metal; I was not evacuated by helicopter but by airboat and then by ambulance. I remember the kindness of the ambulance driver (his name was Ken) who came to visit me at the General Hospital during the following days.
I also remember a wonderful woman, Bettye Franklin (Don, her husband, was “Mr Weather” on TV at this time). On my arrival at the hospital it so happened that I was put in the room where she was just recovering from surgery. I felt so miserable and she was so kind that she invited me to stay at her home with her family when I was discharged. We kept in touch for many years and then I left New York and we lost contact. I hope she is alive and well. I am wondering if she still lives in Miami (last address known Pembroke Pines), maybe she heard about the memorial through newspapers or TV and thought about me. I would like so much to hear from her. Perhaps her son Gary or her daughter (was Susan her name?) still live in the Miami area.
Unfortunately my father and mother were in France at the time and could not make the trip to Miami. They were devastated by the news and had to wait several weeks before they were able to see me. It was not until I had sufficiently recovered from my physical injuries, as well my mental anguish, that I was able to reluctantly take a plane to France where I spent a long convalescence before returning to New York and resuming work.
My gratitude goes of course to the doctors who took very good care of my burns and fractures, and the nurses who spoiled me. I do not forget the dedicated and very helpful staff of Eastern Airlines, especially Mr Paul Kaloostian who made me laugh playing the fortune teller.
I should also like to mention and thank friends from New York and elsewhere for their messages of goodwill and support for a speedy recovery. A special thought goes to my dear cousin Susane (from the American side of my family in Massachussetts) who came to Miami to visit me right after the crash. I’ll tell them to have a look at this site.
Every day I thank God for the gift of life I was given that night. My outlook on life has never been the same since then, as for other survivors I guess. I have flown many times since then, travelling to many countries for work or leisure, not exactly feeling scared but with “something” in the back of my mind. Now, for many reasons, I don’t feel like flying anymore; the last time was in 1984 (Caracas-Paris).
I read in the Memorial pages that you are inviting people to join your efforts in raising awareness of the crash. I would be interested in being informed of any activities, especially about the memorial. If I understood correctly, Mr R. Infantino, Ms M. Ruiz and Ms B. Raposa and other survivors are very active members of the Tribute Group.
This is my story (in brief), I just thought I would post it here as one more testimony. I hope you will read my message.
Thanks to the webmaster and everyone who contributed. God bless you all.
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