- (Photo: AP/Don Heupel)
- (Photo: AP Images / Mike Groll)
CLARENCE, N.Y. (AP) — At Clarence United Methodist Church, they prayed — for the victims, for their families and for the small army of workers sifting through plane wreckage in suburban Buffalo.
Backed by a giant projector screen carrying the words "Prayer for all affected by Flight 3407," the Rev. David Kofahl urged his 70-member congregation at Sunday services to turn to God, taking solace in the Christian faith's promise of everlasting life.
"No one can take away the horror of what happened, but what a wonderful thing it is to know that this life is not all there is," said Kofahl, who'd visited the site Saturday to offer counseling to emergency workers.
Three days after the Newark, N.J.,-to-Buffalo commuter plane fell from the sky onto a house, killing 50 people, a federal investigator said the Continental Connection aircraft was on autopilot until just before it went down in icy weather, indicating that the pilot may have violated federal safety recommendations and the airline's own policy for flying in such conditions.
Meanwhile, people in this Buffalo suburb sought comfort at Sunday church services, and town officials held a meeting to field questions from residents of the community of about 28,700.
"Everybody knows somebody that's been affected, in one way or another," said Nancy Case, 53, who attended the service at Clarence United Methodist, about 4 miles from the crash site.
On Saturday night, she was among those participating in a vigil at the home of John and Marilyn Kausner, whose 24-year-old daughter, Ellyce Kausner, was among the victims. A law student at Florida Coastal School of Law, Kausner was flying home to be her nephew's date at a kindergarten Valentine's Day party.
"A lot of us at the vigil said it's surreal, like a dream we can't wake up from," Case said.
Those who turned out for services at other churches also had the crash in their thoughts. At Clarence Center United Methodist Church, worshippers held hands during a service honoring victims, and at Emmanuel Baptist Church, the Rev. Terry Bowman led prayers for the victims and their families.
"It's a very caring community, and one that's in shock but coming together in prayer," Bowman said.
At Clarence High School, about 200 residents sought answers from government officials, asking when routines would return and what was being done to address the mental health needs of students during this week's midwinter recess.
"It was a healthy discussion," resident Dominick Cortese said. "A lot of the concerns were about more immediate needs, but some things came out today that people have been thinking about as far as the future: Is it likely to be something we will have to deal with again? What's being done to prevent it?"
Town Supervisor Scott Bylewski said it may be weeks before normalcy returns.
Associated Press writer William Kates contributed to this report.