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Open Letter to Boeing from Crash Victim’s Family Member

Dear Boeing,

My brother was Matt Vecere, and he died on your plane. I write to you on the one-year anniversary of his death, March 10, 2019.

Our grandparents owned a restaurant at the New Jersey shore when we were young, and our parents worked long hours in the summer. We worked alongside them, handing out sugar packets to the senior citizens who were bused in, making toast, small jobs.

In the middle of the day, my father would take Matt and me to the beach, to the Point where not many shoobies (New Jersey for tourists) went. Our father would drink beer and we would play in the shallow wash of the ocean.

One of these days, we decided to collect hermit crabs, and back in town we walked them to the Hoys 5&10 to add to its sales inventory. An amused owner told us that the hermit crabs in his store were not from the Stone Harbor beach, and that we had better put them back in the ocean before they perished.

Our father died on April 13, 2000, taken off life support. My brother and I signed our initials next to heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes — we gave all of our father to the Gift of Life Organ Donation. We took some comfort that our father was able to save someone else’s life.

I received a letter of gratitude from the recipient of his heart, but I was too heartbroken myself to write back. Sudden death changes you, I have lived 19 years with my father’s and I am still haunted by it.

I still have the things he had in his pocket when he died, a pack of Newport Lights and matches from the restaurant. I am haunted, but I can put the ghosts away in a box. There are not reminders of him in the news all of the time, nor is there an airplane that killed him that will be ungrounded if you (Boeing) have your way.

If I am haunted by my father’s death all these years later, how will I deal in my lifetime with the collective loss of 157 innocent souls?  How will I cope with the Max flying again, with no one being held accountable for the missteps that happened, with no changes to the certification process, and not truly having faith that it is safe?

The surviving family members will not be the same people, we will always have a haunting sadness about us. The effects ripple through the generations and the futures of our families. It is in our speech, our handwriting, in every breath, the news tortures us but we cannot bear not to know either.

There is no telling how many lives would have been saved or touched by the people on ET302. My brother fought for people who have no voice, and those kinds of people don’t come along every day. His and many other voices have been taken from the world.

I have to hope that it will get better, that the grief will become more bearable, that my brother’s death will someday save some lives and I can take some comfort in that. There is no paper to sign this time, there are no vital organs others are desperately waiting for.

I cannot fast forward the grief, familiar as it is, and though it is another sudden death of an immediate family member it is by no means the same. The gift of life will have to come in a much more complicated process, the gift to the flying public of getting on an aircraft and touching down safely.

So far, I have not seen much in the way of change to prevent another tragedy like Indonesia and Ethiopia, but I and the other family members are still here, asking you to make the change. I have not seen the acceptance of responsibility that is the first step to ensuring there is no more blood on Boeing’s hands. Take real ownership of what happened, and the rest will follow.

Tomra Vecere

Sister of Matt Vecere, ET302 Victim

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