Sole Survivor of 1987 Plane Crash Breaks Silence

Cecelia Crocker's parents, brother killed in Northwest Airlines tragedy

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 15, 2013 2:34 PM CDT | Updated May 15, 2013 4:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Cecelia Crocker's body provides her with a constant reminder of the most traumatic event of her life—one that she doesn't otherwise remember. At only 4 years old, Crocker was the lone survivor of the 1987 Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crash that killed 154 people aboard, including Crocker's parents and brother, and two on the ground near Detroit Metropolitan Airport. In Sole Survivor, a new documentary focusing on Crocker and three other sole survivors of plane crashes, Crocker breaks her silence, discussing how the crash of the Phoenix-bound jetliner has affected her. "I think about the accident every day. It's kind of hard not to think about it when I look in the mirror," says the 30-year-old. "I have visual scars. My arms and my legs. And I have a scar on my forehead." She also sports an airplane tattoo on her left wrist.

Crocker says the enormity of what had happened didn't really hit her for a while. "When I realized I was the only person to survive that plane crash, I was maybe in middle school, high school, maybe, being an adolescent and confused. So it was just extra stress for me. I remember feeling angry and survivor's guilt. 'Why didn't my brother survive? Why didn't anybody? Why me?'" But she still flies often: "Flying doesn't scare me. I have this mentality where if something bad happened to me once on a plane, it's not going to happen again," Crocker says. "The odds are just astronomical." (Another new documentary, Impact: After the Crash, revisits the nation's worst drunk driving accident, which killed 27 people, mostly children, in 1988.)

Cecelia Crocker shows an airplane tattoo on her left wrist in a September 2011 photo.
Cecelia Crocker shows an airplane tattoo on her left wrist in a September 2011 photo.   ((AP Photo/Sole Survivor Film))
In this Aug. 16, 1987 file photo, bag-covered bodies are strewn across the hillsides flanking Middlebelt Road in Romulus, Mich., after the crash.
In this Aug. 16, 1987 file photo, bag-covered bodies are strewn across the hillsides flanking Middlebelt Road in Romulus, Mich., after the crash.   (Dale Atkins)
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