Rosario Rosa cried as she sat on a brown folding chair Tuesday night studying the 230 names inscribed on the black granite wall, a memorial to all who died on TWA Flight 800.
She and her husband, who drove from their home in Woodbridge, N.J., to Smith Point County Park to mark the 16th anniversary of the crash, didn't know anyone on the plane.
Rosa had worked part-time for TWA in 1996 out of Portugal. The company had sent her to France to work at the lost-and-found office.
"A small part of my wife went with them," said Rosa's husband, Luis Ramos, 54. Rosa had met some of the victims' family members when they came to collect their loved ones' luggage.
"I always felt I owed them something," she said. "It's strange."
Flight 800 exploded in the sky and crashed south of Moriches Inlet. The jumbo jet, en route to Paris, went down 12 minutes after takeoff from Kennedy Airport, killing all 230 passengers and crew aboard.
Federal investigators concluded that vapors in a large fuel tank located in the center of the Boeing 747 had ignited, causing the explosion.
About 100 people attended the half-hour ceremony Tuesday night, where relatives and friends of the victims read off the names of those killed and cast carnations in their memory into the surf.
Unlike Rosa and her husband, Margaret Krick, 65, of St. Louis, lost her son, Oliver, 25, a flight engineer.
She arrived on Sunday and visited the memorial three times a day.
"This is where I belong when I come here," she said.
Every year, Krick comes to remember and celebrate her son's short but full life.
He did everything and played in every sport from scuba diving to water skiing, she said. "I carry his enthusiasm," she said. "Some people mourn. I celebrate his life."
Paige Verducci, 62, of Massapequa, a TWA flight attendant at the time, has come every year except for one, to honor a friend and a colleague.
Verducci said she feels a sense of guilt for recommending that a friend and her husband fly to Paris instead of Rome, because Paris is more romantic. The couple boarded the doomed flight.
"In her memory and in her honor, I will be here every year until I die," Verducci said.
With Zachary R. Dowdy