|Piece of the wreckage –
shadowbox presented to Fr. Vazken
“Kahanayk yev joghovort” are the first words of the requiem service of the Armenian Church. The words translate to “the priests and people” referring to a gathering of those who remember the dead in prayer. And there we were, the priest and people, in solemn remembrance of 17 men who perished 60 years ago to the day. I was singing the hymn but this gathering was not in any Armenian church. Far from one, we were standing in the middle of America in Bellevue, Nebraska, near the Offutt Air Force Base. The gathering? Sixty years ago, in the height of the Cold War, a United States Air Force C-130 was shot out of the sky by the Soviet Union. The plane crashed in the village of Nerkin Sasnashen, Armenia (about 60km Northwest of Yerevan).
It was interesting that I sang the hymn in Armenian and no one in the audience understood the language, yet everyone knew very well what was happening. We were connecting as people. We were uniting the remote village of Sasnashen with Bellevue. Armenia was uniting with Nebraska and all of this to attest that a group of men were united with eternity.
|Remembrance in Sasnashen
Like many Armenians, or many people in general, I had not heard of this shoot-down incident. We grew up in the Cold War fearing the worst, with duck-and-cover drills executed in our school hallways on a regular basis. But who knew that the Cold War was being played out with a shoot-down in Armenia? We should have known for in fact, this major international incident was the most publicized confrontation between the Soviet Union and the U.S. military during the Cold War!
|With the Prop Wash Gang – September 2, 2018, Bellevue, Nebraska
One of the eye-witnesses to the event was a young man, Martin Kakosian, a college student on a field trip in 1958. Kakosian, a skilled sculptor, later collaborated with the villagers to create a memorial — a khatchkar— honoring an unknown American crew that had died unceremoniously at the edge of their village. In late August 1993, Sasnashen village commemorated the 35th anniversary of the shoot-down during the unveiling of the khachkar.
|With Chief Lonnie Henderson
|Presentation of the Shadowbox with wreckage
|Missing Man Table Setting
Photos courtesy of Pat Morrow.