Family and friends of 17 Vietnamese pilgrims from Houston who died in a bus crash near Sherman in August erected a cross and celebrated Mass at the crash site Sunday and then presented a plaque to the mayor to recognize the city's help.
Arriving on two buses and in several sport utility vehicles, about 50 people gathered near the spot where the tour bus carrying the victims came to rest early Aug. 8. A vase for each of the 17 victims was set up, forming a semicircle around the 6-foot tall white wooden cross.
Family members approached the cross to offer incense at a burner and rose in memory of loved ones. Pictures of the victims adorned the base of the cross that could be seen from U.S. 75, the Sherman Herald-Democrat reported.
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The trip into Sherman was emotional for many, bringing back the memories of the crash.
"When we entered Sherman, the lady who lost her husband, she started crying," said Chaum Luong, who attended the event.
Several of the injured attended the Mass, but Luong said that some of the injured are still recovering and couldn't make the trip.
After celebrating Mass, the group went to Sherman's city hall and presented Mayor Bill Magers a plaque recognizing the efforts of emergency crews.
"You gave us strength in our faith in our darkest hour," Thai Pham, president of a victim's group, said, noting a bond had formed between the Vietnamese community and the Sherman area. "We're thankful that our loved ones found somewhere humane and dignified during their last moments of life."
In addition to police and fire departments, Pham thanked the hospitals, American Red Cross and the local health department for their help.
"Your loss is our loss, and we feel it every day," Sherman Fire Chief J.J. Jones told the group.
Officer Rob Ballew, one of the first police officers on the scene, said Sunday's gesture was an unexpected one.
"I was really impressed that they would do this after such a terrible ordeal," he said. He and several other officers told the newspaper that, throughout the ceremony, they recognized faces of those who they helped, and the pictures of those who were found dead at the crash site.
The bus carrying the 55 pilgrims on a trip from Houston to Carthage, Mo., broke through a guardrail over Post Oak Creek and came to rest down an embankment.