Shorewood to host author who survived plane crash into home

Karen Wielinski

This February 12, 2019 will mark the 10 year anniversary of a day that forever changed the life of Karen Wielinski. What began as a quiet evening in her Clarence Center home ended in tragedy when Continental Flight 3407 crashed into her home, killing her husband, Doug, and all 49 passengers and crew on the plane.

Wielinski will be discussing her memoir, “One on the Ground,” at Shorewood Country Club, 4958 W. Lake Road in Dunkirk, on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m., and the public is invited to attend. Wielinski published her memoir on Feb. 12, 2017; in it, she shares the story of her family’s life before, during and after the crash.

Her husband, the only individual killed who was not on the plane, was referred to as “the one on the ground” by first responders and media sources throughout the country. In her memoir, Wielinski brings to life the man behind the phrase and her family’s incredible story of survival in the wake of this tragic loss. “We’re so excited to have Karen come speak about her book,” said Sue Ketcham, whose book club is organizing the event. “Hers is such an incredible, moving story. It’s an excellent book.”

On Feb. 12, 2009, Continental Flight 3407 out of Newark was bound for Buffalo International Airport, when apparent ice build-up on the wings and windshield complicated plans for landing. According to flight data and black box recordings, the plane began its descent through light snow and mist; however, the pilot and crew attempted to abort the landing, which caused the plane to roll and crash violently into Wielinski’s home, just six miles from the airport. Miraculously, Wielinski and her daughter, Jill, managed to survive, receiving only minor injuries during the crash; sadly, Doug was among the 50 individuals who did not survive.

In her memoir, Wielinski shared her experiences following the crash, including the investigation and aftermath of the flight and her family’s emotional journey over the years. Wielinski shared an excerpt of her experience viewing a computerized simulation of the crash, based on the black box recordings, that had been prepared for impending litigation:

Submitted Photo “One on the Ground” is author Karen Wielinski’s incredible story of hope and survival following the tragedy that made headlines across the country when Flight 3407 crashed into her Clarence Center home on Feb. 12, 2009.

“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.”

Wielinski is an author and freelance writer who now lives in East Aurora. She enjoys spending time with her daughters and grandchildren and is part of a local writing group that has continued to be a source of inspiration and strength to her. Wielinski’s mission is to share her experience in hopes that her story — and her resurgence — can help others navigate life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Ketcham encourages other book clubs and individuals to take advantage of the weeks leading up to the event to read Wielinski’s book. “It’s available for purchase on Amazon.com in print formats, but the Kindle edition is available too, and it’s very affordable,” Ketcham explained. Profits from the sale of the book go into the Douglas C. Wielinski Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides assistance to area high school students. To learn more about Wielinski, visit her website and blog at http://karenfwielinski.com.

On Jan. 22 beginning at 6:30, Wielinski will speak for approximately 45 minutes, which will be followed by a 15-minute question and answer session and book signing. Light snacks will be available, as well as a cash bar. The event is free to attend, but reservations should be made by contacting Shorewood Country Club at 366-1880, extension 1.