Remembering Swissair 111

Nearly a year after 229 people were killed in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, relatives of the victims are visiting the fishing villages near the crash site to mourn.

A series of ceremonies intended to help them come to grips with their pain began Tuesday in the hamlet of Bayswater with a private burial for some of the unidentified remains.

Wednesday, more remains were buried, and the rescue crews who worked in vain to find survivors of the Sept. 2, 1998 crash joined the mourners.

Hundreds of victims' family members arrived by bus for the private interment overlooking the crash site. Some carried wreaths, some brought flowers and all wore somber expressions.

They filed past the pallbearers, who carried two dozen metal coffins holding the unidentified remains of several of the victims, and then walked down a wooded path to an elevated spot overlooking St. Margaret's Bay, where their loved ones were buried.

The families are scheduled to meet Thursday with the men and women who dove for bodies, conducted shoreline searches, and made coffee and sandwiches for those involved in recovery efforts.

During Wednesday's ceremony, the Canadian Navy frigate Ville de Quebec anchored offshore, forming the apex of a triangle with the interment site and a memorial to the victims at Whalesback, a dot on the map near Peggy's Cove.

A year ago, the Ville de Quebec had been one of the first ships to arrive on the scene, about a half-hour after the crash.

As it steamed towards its position, the ship stopped over the crash site, and the 229-member crew observed a moment of silence. They began to slowly make way again under a cloudless sky, and Father Robert Lauder said a few prayers.

"It was a hard time, it was a terrible time," he said. "It's been a year. As we go to look inwards we struggle to remember our own feelings."

Chief Petty Officer Lee Brown, who led the ship's dive team, said: "It's good for us to go out and feel some closure."

Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss are to attend Thursday's commemorative gathering, which will be followed by a religious ceremony on Citadel Hill, a historic hilltop fortress in Halifax.

Some of the families plan to stay away because they are appalled by the decision to bury 2,300 pounds of unidentified remains in a mass grave.

A year after the crash of the New York-to-Geneva flight, it is still unknown what caused the fire that filled the cockpit and caused the jumbo jet's electrical system to fail.

A final report is not expected for more than a year.

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