Surviving the Holiday

My brother, William Best, 36 and his wife Kathryn, 32 and children Billy Jr. 5, Hillary, 3 and Katelyn, 4 months were killed on Northwest Flight 255 on August 16, 1987, at Detroit Metro Airport.

It was as if I lost my son and family because our mother died when Bill was 15 and I was 12 years older and he was like my own son. After the shock and disbelief you feel like your world has ended, and you just can’t go on. The holidays are the hardest. I remember having my family at my home for the first Thanksgiving and everyone was in the dining room and everyone was very quiet and tearful. I personally could not sit with them. I stood up in the kitchen and cried all the time. Everyone was trying to eat. I did not eat! It was just too much! We always called each other on the holidays and we would put the phone on the speaker so everyone could hear. My brother lived in Mesa, Arizona and it was always a big thing in our family to call.

Christmas was a disaster. I only did the shopping because I had to. I thought I could get through the holidays but the Christmas music tore my heart out. When I heard “Home for the Holidays,” I would just sob, no matter where I was. Again I had everyone at my home and again I couldn’t sit with them. I stood with my back to them and just cried. I can honestly say that it took me four years before I could say their names without crying.

Holidays are a very sad time for my family and it all came back to me again in August 1998 when my husband died due to a sudden illness. We were married for 41 years. I do not like to see the holidays, they are very painful, and the pain never goes away.

Joan Pontante, NY, lost her brother, William Best, 36, his wife Kathryn, 32 and their children Billy Jr., 5, Hillary, 3, and Katelyn, 4-months-old, on Northwest Flight 255, in Detroit on August 16, 1987

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