Plane crash survivor returns to Des Plaines flock to give Mass

 
Updated 8/13/2018 9:14 AM
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  • The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez gathers with fellow survivors of the crash of Aeromexico Flight 2431 at the end of a mass of thanksgiving at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Sunday.

      The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez gathers with fellow survivors of the crash of Aeromexico Flight 2431 at the end of a mass of thanksgiving at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Sunday. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez shares a special word while offering Holy Communion to fellow plane crash survivor Sandra Alarcon of Northlake. Sanchez celebrated a mass of thanksgiving Sunday at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

      The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez shares a special word while offering Holy Communion to fellow plane crash survivor Sandra Alarcon of Northlake. Sanchez celebrated a mass of thanksgiving Sunday at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Several survivors of the crash of Aeromexico Flight 2431 embrace in a group hug Sunday at the end of a mass of thanksgiving at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.

      Several survivors of the crash of Aeromexico Flight 2431 embrace in a group hug Sunday at the end of a mass of thanksgiving at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Two weeks after he nearly lost his life in the crash of an Aeromexico plane in Durango, Mexico, the Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez returned to his flock at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.

The occasion was a Mass of thanksgiving Sunday, and it reached its climax when he brought up some surprise guests -- several fellow passengers from Flight 2431, upon which all of the more than 100 passengers survived.

Throughout the service, which, on a hot, clear day, was punctuated by the peaceful strumming of guitars, several of the worshippers who sat on chairs under tents wept, listening to the pastor they almost lost.

Sanchez, director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, showed no outward physical effects from the crash, but two of the passengers, Oscar Diaz of Wood Dale, and Sandra Alarcon of Northlake, showed clear signs they have a long road to recovery ahead.

Yet Diaz, who wore a brace around his torso, and Alarcon, in a neck brace, expressed an even firmer support for their faith as a result of the crash.

"To get out of that plane alive is a miracle from God," Diaz said. During the traumatic experience, he said, "I felt comfortable with knowing that he is my lord and savior and that I would be with him."

Likewise, Alarcon said, it was hard not to think of death when looking at the flames and the smoke, but, "I think underneath it all, there was a little hope, because once we were out, we kept looking at each other and we're like, 'Oh my gosh, we're still here.'"

Fueling the faith and courage of the passengers was the inspirational example of Sanchez.

Passenger Dorelia Rivera of Elmwood Park, who attended with daughter and fellow passenger Kayla Martinez, said, "During the crisis, he told us to get as many people as we could and run."

During his speech to worshippers Sunday, which he delivered in both English and Spanish, Sanchez mentioned the heroism of the passengers as a miracle of courage.

"They did not care only about their own safety, but they cared about the safety of others," he said. "You can say that the miracle was about the airplane crashing and not burning up immediately so people could get out. But the miracle I see was that there were so many who cared about each other."

Sanchez touched on the questions one naturally asks after surviving a near-death experience.

"We got lucky on that airplane. We got out. But on the same day there was another accident ... and 11 people died. How many other accidents are there around the world, and yet they were not as lucky?" he asked.

But he added, "God is not tired at all of giving us new possibilities and new hopes. In short, it ain't over. There is a bigger plan, and God's will will not be thwarted."

With faith, he said, comes courage in the moments when you least expect it.

For worshippers, Sanchez's survival is no accident.

Mariana Rodriguez, who is originally from Durango, Mexico, said, "It's a miracle he survived in the accident. I think he survived because he has to do more work down here."

Diana Rojas of Palatine agreed, "I feel he is part of the miracle that all the people were saved."

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