Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A statue, and a young life

Mr. & Mrs. Conrad Stewart (Mary Therese) with MSMC President
Sister Rebecca Doan, CSJ, at the dedication of the new statue May 27, 1963.
LIKE A CHILLY WIND, a sad bit of MSMC history blew through today. And it has a strange connection to contemporary culture.

Let's go back 50 years or so to the early 1960s.

Freshman Rosalind Stewart, front
row center, in the 1960 yearbook.
Rosalind Stewart entered Mount St. Mary's College in the fall of 1959 intending to study nursing. She appears in the 1960 yearbook in her freshman group picture, a pretty, smiling girl with a dark-haired updo. She wasn't long at MSMC; sometime in the next year or two she left the Mount to become a flight attendant, or "stewardess" as they were called then. Air travel was still the domain of the wealthy, and jobs on passenger flights were considered the height of glamor and adventure for women.

The next mention we have of Rosalind in the archives is this sad note from the front page of the college newspaper on March 13, 1962:
Notice of Rosalind's death
in the Mount newspaper
The View staff joins with the student body in offering its sympathy to the family of Rosalind Stewart, former Mount student ('63) who was killed in a plane crash on March 1. … At the time of the plane crash she was completing her training as a stewardess, and would have been assigned to a regular flight.
The crash of American Airlines Flight 1 from New York to Los Angeles was, at the time, the worst air accident in U.S. history. A defect in the rudder control system put the Boeing 707 into a steep dive shortly after takeoff. It crashed in the marshes of Jamaica Bay and exploded into a ball of fire. Eighty-seven passengers and eight crew members were killed, including stewardess trainee Rosalind Stewart.

Although Rosalind was at the Mount only a short time, there is an enduring memorial to her just a few steps east of the Circle at Chalon. On May 27, 1963 – Mary's Day – a new statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux was dedicated to her memory, donated by the Stewart family to replace the statue that had been destroyed in the Bel Air fire in November 1961, just a few months before Rosalind died.

And strangely, the plane crash endures in another kind of memorial. Not long ago an episode of the popular TV series "Mad Men" focused on the crash in "Flight 1." It explores the reaction at the Sterling Cooper agency to this national tragedy.

One look at the shrine of St. Thérèse is all you need, and you're there – a young life cut short, a national disaster, a grieving family. Next time you're near the Circle, visit St. Thérèse, take a look at the inscription and remember Rosalind.
In memory of Rosalind Stewart, Class of 1963, who, like St. Thérèse, loved the beauty of God's creation as revealed in flowers, trees and sky.  
Crash scene of Flight 1, March 1, 1962. Rosalind Stewart '63 was one of four
flight attendants who were killed in the disaster in Jamaica Bay, N.Y.

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