February 12, 2009 was an ordinary evening at home for the Wielinski family. Karen said good night to her husband Doug as he left their family room. Their daughter was reading in an upstairs room. Minutes later their world and their home collapsed into flaming wreckage around them. The crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, New York resulted in the loss of everyone aboard the plane and “one on the ground.” Karen and her daughter miraculously escaped. Doug did not.
In this compelling memoir, Karen Wielinski has written a moving tribute to her husband along with her account of how she and her surviving family faced the myriad losses caused by the crash of Flight 3407.This is the story of one man, one home, and one family. It is the story of life before, during, and after an unthinkable tragedy. As the members of the Wielinski family struggle to emerge from devastation, their lives are woven together with others who have experienced their own losses caused by the crash of Flight 3407.
This is a story of survival and the bond of love that continues to unite a family. Karen’s strength was tested time and time again in the years after the crash. Here is a description of watching a computerized simulation that had been prepared for impending litigation. The simulation had been coordinated with cockpit, audio recovered from the ”black box.” Karen tells how she felt as she watched and listened with her attorneys.
“Sixty seconds remained… closer and closer… My heart beat faster and faster. I sat at the edge of my chair and leaned toward the computer screen. A vision flashed in my mind: on the ground, Doug, Jill and I were oblivious to what was about to occur, but by now we would have paused and wondered. What is that? My eyes glued to the screen, I heard the pilot and co-pilot’s screams and a desperate “Christ!” and then… the blow was delivered. My hand covered the gasp that escaped from my mouth as I fell back into the chair, sobbing. My hands shook.”
Here's what some reviewers have said about One on the Ground:
One on the Ground is the incredible recounting of Karen Wielinski’s personal loss and survival when Flight 3407 crashed into her home and shattered life as she knew it. Her story is in many ways the story of each of us who also lost someone dearly-loved in the crash. She describes how she miraculously survived and how her ordinary life became part of a chain of events and a larger national discussion on airline safety. As she journeys through that night and the months of grief that followed, she writes with love, warmth, and compassion, along with touches of humor and bewilderment. The love she shared with her husband Doug and with her girls is a constant that shines through as she picks up the shreds of her life and rebuilds it into a life of which Doug would be proud. As a member of the ‘Families of Flight 3407,’ I am grateful to Karen for telling her unique story. It is a testament to the resiliency and strength we found in ourselves and each other.
Karen Eckert, Sister of Beverly Eckert, Families of Flight 3407
It has been an honor to work with the Flight 3407 Families. Their strength in the face of unspeakable tragedy is inspiring; their advocacy for better airline safety keeps alive the memory of those we lost. Their work has made air travel safer for countless passengers and personnel. We must continue to tell their stories, and we must never forget what happened that night.
Senator Charles Schumer
One on the Ground is as much a love story as it is a look back at the darkest day in the lives of 50 families. Through raw emotion and vivid memories, Karen Wielinski takes you on an eight-year journey, inspiring you along the way with a message of hope and resiliency. Covering the journeys of the Flight 3407 families has been an incredibly powerful personal and professional experience.
Ed Drantch, Anchor/Reporter, Eyewitness News, WKBW-TV, Channel 7, Buffalo,