St. Ignace, MI – Located 426 miles from Chicago in Makinac County, Michigan, St. Ignace is a popular vacation destination with an area of only 2.7 square miles, almost half of which is covered with water. While for many, the name St. Ignace conjures up visions of beautiful scenery, for Jews worldwide, St. Ignace will forever be known as the scene of one of the most catastrophic plane crashes ever to hit the Jewish community.
While Jews worldwide are reeling after Tuesday’s tragic plane crash, which claimed the lives of 73 year old Moshe Menora and his three teenage granddaughters and left 13 year old Yossi Menora badly burned, it provided numerous officials and agencies in the Midwest an opportunity to see the Jewish community doing what it does best: joining together to help those in need.
Just hours after the horrific accident, Chesed Shel Emes flew a team of five volunteers from Brooklyn, Queens and Monsey to the crash site, arriving in Michigan at 3:15 AM, Wednesday morning. CSE was cleared to work the accident scene at 12 noon and they worked tirelessly for over three hours, collecting the remains, which were sent to Israel for burial along with the victims.
Zvi Gluck of Chesed Shel Emes was amazed by the countless agencies in Michigan who worked tirelessly to clear the accident scene, while at the same time allowing Chesed Shel Emes the opportunity to do their best to recover the remains.
“Dr. Carl Hawkins, Chief Medical Examiner of Makinac County was extremely helpful and graciously agreed last night not to do an autopsy. This morning, Dr. Stephen Cohle, Chief Medical Examiner in Grand Rapids also fought very hard to prevent an autopsy. The Chevra Kadisha of Detroit was present and both the Medical Examiners and the Chevra Kadisha complimented each other on how well they worked together under these tragic circumstances. The Medical Examiner himself requested that we wait to do our work until he got there, so that he could understand what we do and be able to assist us. He was able to show us exactly where they were and helped us with our work.
Both the Makinac County Sheriff and Undersherriff were present at the scene, as were representatives from the NTSB, the FAA and the Michigan Department of Transportation, who graciously provided cold water to the volunteers at the scene who were working during the heat of the day.
Local authorities asked the media to interview us to show the local people how impressed they were with the response of the Orthodox Community. These people have never met a Jew in their lives. It is unfortunate that it took such a tragedy to make a Kiddush Hashem.”
While Chesed Shel Emes was impressed with the professionalism and thoughtfulness shown by the various people they encountered on their recovery mission, the local parties involved had words of praise for the team of New Yorkers who showed up to help four people they had never even met.
Andrew Keller, reporter for 7 and 4 News in Michigan, told VIN News in an exclusive interview, “I arrived at the scene not knowing what to expect after hearing that the four victims were Jewish, three of them being from Israel. I have a lot of Jewish friends, I am not myself, but I know the importance of burying the body as soon as humanly possible. I thought it was unbelievable that these men, volunteers, great individuals in helping preserve Jewish tradition and law, were ready to collect any remains, jump on the plane, and work quickly so these bodies could be laid to rest. In a time of bereavement for the family, these gentlemen probably made it a little easier by preserving the customs. Those guys were great people.”
Tim Ahlborn, Chief Corrections Deputy at the Makinac County Sherrif’s Office shared his thoughts on Tuesday’s tragedy as well.
“Being here for over 23 years with the sheriff’s office, you get to get to see various incidents, you hear about different types of accidents. This is the first I’ve heard where the community has been involved with so many resources and so many private citizens who responded right away to the accident in an attempt to rescue the individuals.”