Thirty-two years and nearly five months of waiting ends Saturday as a permanent memorial remembering the 273 victims of American Airlines Flight 191 plane crash is unveiled in Des Plaines.
More than 1,000 people, including more than 120 families of victims, are expected to attend the 11 a.m. dedication ceremony at Lake Park, 1012 Touhy Ave.
Thousands of emails have been pouring in from all over the country since news of the memorial spread, said Kim Jockl, assistant principal at Decatur Classical School in Chicago.
Jockl and her sister, Melody Smith of Arlington Heights, lost their parents in the crash.
"We have 5,000 ribbons to pass out so we're ready for a large crowd," she said.
Jockl and Smith have been trying for years to get some sort of commemoration for Flight 191 victims. They organized a memorial gathering at a chapel in O'Hare International Airport's Terminal 2 on the 25th anniversary of the crash.
It was the sixth-grade class of 2009-2010 at Jockl's school that tirelessly lobbied lawmakers and American Airlines for two years to get the memorial.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston helped secure roughly $20,000 in funding from American Airlines.
"It took a while to get their support. Everyone is just so happy and so proud that we can finally get this done," said eighth-grader Simone Laszuk, 13, of Chicago. "We were 11 when we started the project. We had such a great time doing it."
The memorial, erected by Des Plaines Park District, is at the northwest corner of Touhy Avenue and Lee Street, not far from where Flight 191 went down shortly after takeoff. It will bear the names of all the victims, including Jockl and Smith's parents, Corrinne and Bill Borchers.
Jockl said she found solace in getting the memorial built, but there are still many others who need closure.
"We are all at different stages," she said.
"There are so many people connected in some way to this flight beside those who actually knew someone on the flight, that I think it's important, and those are people who still need a place to even share their story."