NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. – Shaken by tragedy, people packed Kentucky churches on Sunday, a week after the crash of Comair Flight 5191 killed 49 people in Lexington.
Despite the Labor Day holiday weekend, nearly 6,000 people attended services at Southland Christian Church outside Nicholasville, just south of Lexington. Volunteers had to direct traffic.
"It's been a very painful experience for everybody," said the Rev. Jon Weece, senior pastor of Southland. "I think the emotions range from everything from anger, confusion, obviously pain. I think people have a ton of questions that go well beyond the whys of the crash, beyond the details of whose fault it was."
The commuter jet turned onto runway that was too short, struggled to get airborne and crashed in a field on Aug. 26. The sole survivor, first officer James Polehinke, remained hospitalized Sunday in serious condition.
Southland was especially hard hit because parishioners knew seven of the victims as relatives or close friends, Weece said.
At the tiny Liberty Baptist Church outside the eastern Kentucky town of Paintsville, 30 people gathered to pray for the victims' families.
Liberty Baptist member June Rice, a retired teacher, said the husband of one of her former students died in the crash.
"This just emphasizes the fact that everybody needs to be ready to go at any time," she said.
The victims included two parishioners of the Cathedral of Christ the King Catholic Church in Lexington, where the Rev. Paul Trabell said people had turned to God to deal with their emotions.
"How profound grief is. How overwhelming the sense of loss is. It just permeates throughout our community," Trabell said.
The priest said people have been left with a realization that "the flaws of life and the randomness with which the flaws of life catch up with us are beyond our control and beyond our comprehension."
As part of the service at Southland, tearful parishioners wrote notes to relatives of the crash victims on tables set up throughout the sanctuary. Weece said the notes would be presented to the families.
"I am so sorry," wrote Hannah Nee, one of hundreds of names on the letters. "There are no words."
Weece agreed, saying: "I think this tragedy shook up the whole community. We talk about life and death all the time, but a situation like this really focuses our attention."