Linda Wiggs of Garner plans to wear a button with an image of her son, Christopher “Bage” Wells, to Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for Cary’s Carpenter Park.
In a year, 16 acres of land at the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Louis Stephens Drive will be home to Cary’s second community garden and pickleball courts.
Wiggs’ 13-year-old son was among the 12 passengers who died 27 years ago on Flight 3378.
Never miss a local story.
“Every parent’s greatest fear is that their child will not only be lost but forgotten,” Wiggs said. “To have one place, where all of the families could go to remember our precious family members who have died, reassures me that he will not be forgotten.”
Tuesday’s ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. Friends and relatives of the crash victims, a representative from American Airlines and those who have raised money for the memorial also are scheduled to attend.
The plane crash memorial will feature a terrace with two long, black walls aligned in the direction of each crash. There will be five trees in the middle, representing the survivors, and more trees ringing the back, for those who were killed.
The memorial, which cost $50,000, is funded by survivors, a former American Eagle pilot, Wiggs and the Family Assistance Foundation. They plan to present a check for $25,000 to the town at Tuesday’s ceremony, and another $25,000 when the park opens next winter, said Cary spokeswoman Carrie Roman.
Wiggs’ son was headed to see his father on Richmond-bound Flight 3378, which crashed shortly after taking off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Feb. 19, 1988. Investigators determined that the pilot made an improper turn, causing the plane to crash into the Brier Creek Reservoir along Aviation Parkway. All 12 people on board died.
“I collapsed in the airport, and they called rescue and took me to the hospital,” Wiggs said in a recent interview. “I literally wanted to die. I could not imagine a day without him. Being his mom for those 13 years, he was the greatest joy I ever had.”
Flight 3379 crashed on Dec. 13, 1994. Investigators determined that it also crashed because of the pilot’s error. The plane, coming into RDU from Greensboro, stalled and crashed into woods about a mile from the Carpenter Park site.
Fifteen people died, including both pilots. Five passengers survived.
Council members say the $2.9 million Carpenter Park project has been highly anticipated by residents in west Cary, which is growing rapidly.
The town purchased the land in 2007 in hopes of turning it into a park but didn’t proceed with plans until after voters approved $2 million in funding for it through a 2012 referendum.
Carpenter Park will feature a children’s playground, a walking trail around a pond, lawns and basketball courts, in addition to the community garden.
For Wiggs, who has donated about $5,000 to the memorial, the park will bear more than produce. The memorial, she said, will bring “some hope, and probably some peace.”
Reporters Jonathan M. Alexander and Will Doran contributed.
If you go
Cary is inviting the community to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for Carpenter Park at 4420 Louis Stephens Road.
The event will begin at 1:30 p.m. The town is asking attendees to park at 1580 Morrisville Carpenter Road. Police plan to help guests cross Morrisville Carpenter Road to get to the park site.