ROMULUS, Mich. — Family members of those who died in a plane crash near Detroit Metropolitan Airport 25 years ago held a memorial Thursday night at the crash site.
The Phoenix-bound jetliner crashed on Aug. 16, 1987, killing 154 people -- including 110 people from from Arizona, 32 from the East Valley -- aboard and two on the ground.
Tony Zanger, whose 23-year-old brother, Michael, died in the crash along with Michael's fiancée, Hollins Langton, said the shared experience of loss has brought the surviving family members together through the years. They have met for a ceremony each year since it happened.
"We are sort of a family," Zanger told WXYZ-TV from the crash site just before the memorial. "We may not be related by blood, but we are related because of a common bond. And that bond is not going to be broken."
The Rev. James Wieging, who responded to the crash in 1987, said the annual ceremonies offer familiarity and comfort to the families.
"It's come to be a very special evening," Wieging said of the events.
The lone survivor was Cecelia Cichan, formerly of Tempe, who was 4 at the time. Cichan recently discussed the crash for "Sole Survivor," an upcoming documentary featuring stories of plane crash survivors.
"I think about the accident every day. It's kind of hard not to think about it when I look in the mirror," she said in a clip from the film that was broadcast by WDIV-TV in Detroit.
An image from the film shows Cichan with a tattoo of an airplane on her wrist.
Thursday marked 25 years since Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed in the Detroit suburb of Romulus. The plane was just clearing the runway at 8:46 p.m. when it tilted slightly. The left wing clipped a light pole, and the damaged airliner sheared the top off a rental car building.
The McDonnell Douglas MD80 left a half-mile trail of bodies, charred wreckage, magazines and trays of food along Middle Belt Road when it crashed.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the plane's crew failed to set the wing flaps properly for takeoff. The agency also said a cockpit warning system did not alert the crew to the problem.
Cichan's parents and brother were killed. She is now married, and her name is Cecelia Crocker.
The memorial event was held at the Northwest Flight 255 memorial site on the embankment of Middlebelt Road at the entrance to Interstate 94 in Romulus.
The service included a reading of the names of the victims, with onlookers shining pen lights into the sky to honor the dead.