I had spent a few years living within 50 miles of the crash site for a few years before my first visit. I went by myself on a sunny May 6. As I drove to Walkersville, Maryland, I was overwhelmed by various emotions. My entire life had been changed by the events that happened over that very town over 20 years ago. I was about to turn two when my father, Captain Thomas Edward Bayliss, died at age 30 on Aria 328. My brother was two months old, born three months premature. My mother and brother had both been invited on the trip but my mother didn’t want to leave me at home. My father loved to write, and paint, and I looked so much like him. I try to understand how this one single event has shaped me into becoming the person that I am today.
I drove silently along the road leading up to the park, past the houses, wondering who was there, wondering if this event had changed any of their lives. If they had seen something or had been horrified by the news; or had just heard the sirens in the back ground as they went about their lives. Heritage Farm Park was empty and silent. I looked to the sky, I looked to the tree line, I reached down and touched the earth. I walked to the edge of the field, sat in the grass, and felt so close to my father.
I had been to the memorial in Dayton, walked among the trees, felt the letters of my father’s name under my finger. But being in Walkersville, the actual site of the crash, felt real. The events of that day were real and the effect it has had on many, many lives are all very real. I support the construction of the Walkersville Memorial so that I and other family members and friends have a place to sit and remember and to know that they are not alone in the field but surrounded by love and compassion. My life will never be the same, the sadness lives on, but life is a fleeting journey and in the end, just as they did on Aria 328, all we have is each other.
Jessica Bayliss Brown