LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — It’s been nearly 23 years since American Airlines Flight 1420 crashed at the Little Rock airport, claiming the lives of 11 people. The well-known Ouachita Singers were on the plane, and one member died along with the daughter of the group’s director. An open house event Tuesday unveiled a new exhibit at Ouachita Baptist University.
“I obviously feel like it’s special because I survived,” said Jon Merryman, a survivor and faculty member at Ouachita Baptist. “I just think there are a lot of things that happened in the experience to make it special.”
Merryman curated the exhibit, which features his own recovered Bible along with other crash artifacts. Photos of the Ouachita Singers from that time line the walls, and people can scan a QR code that pulls up songs commissioned to honor victims.
“It was about a year ago that we came down to this area looking for the best spot,” Merryman said.
The exhibit is in McClellan Hall on campus. The open house was filled with people who survived the crash. Merryman said they are forever linked by surviving such a tragedy. The Ouachita Singers were returning from a trip to Europe, and the plane took off from Dallas before crashing in Little Rock after landing in a storm.
“We went off the runway, came back on, went off the runway, hit some approached lights, flipped around and went off then broke into a few pieces,” Merryman said.
Eleven people died in the crash, including the captain. Rachel Fuller, 14, died a couple days after the crash due to severe burns. Her parents were faculty members. James Harrison, a member of the Ouachita singers, died helping people get off the burning plane.
“I got to know him better than the others, and that was difficult,” said Dave Ozmun, a faculty member who joined the group to document the trip.
Ozmun said he remembers exactly what he was thinking when the plane crashed.
“I’m going to die,” Ozmun said.
Merryman said keeping the artifacts together makes it easier for people to stop by and learn what happened. An amphitheater outside was dedicated to the victims around 15 years ago, and a memorial is set up at the airport.
“This is a special way that people can always remember,” Merryman said.