Northwest Flight 255 Crash, 20 Years Later

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the crash of Northwest flight 255 outside of Detroit, an accident that killed all but 1 of the 155 people on board the flight to Phoenix.  You may remember that, miraculously, a 4 year old girl named Cecelia Cichan was the sole survivor of the flight.  The link to the story above offers a bit of a history of her remarkable life since that day.

She was adopted by an aunt and uncle who made it their mission to provide a normal childhood for their niece, who lost her parents and brother in the crash.  They changed her last name, moved her from her Arizona hometown, and had court records sealed so media could not track her.  Now, at 24, she has graduated from college and gotten married.  By all accounts she has held up extremely well, though until recently she did not interact with the surviving families from the crash.

I lived outside of Detroit for 7 years, and this crash was burned into the collective memory of the city; certainly every time I drove by the crash site near the airport I thought of how unthinkable it was that 1 little girl could’ve survived when 154 others did not.   It’s such a testament to her relatives that she was able to thrive, anonymously, for the past 20 years, despite the horror she saw when she was a child. 

Check out the column in the link – I was pretty moved by it.


  1. Well written, with feeling, a nice piece. Bravo.

  2. Hard to believe its been 20 years. My dad was supposed to be on that flight for a business trip but the part he was supposed to be testing broke earlier in the week and his trip was cancelled. You always wonder how? and why?

  3. Huge kudos to her aunt and uncle who raised her and gave her a normal life!! That’s LOVE!!! :)

  4. I just want to say that i would love to give the aunt and uncle a BIGGG!!!HUG!!! And a HUGE KISS for doing what they did to protect there niece. That was a beautiful thing that they did. They will be blessed. For the young woman, I wish her nothing but the best in life