DETROIT — Cecelia
Crocker’s body provides her with a constant reminder of the most
traumatic event of her life — one that she doesn’t otherwise remember.
only 4 years old, Crocker was the lone survivor of a 1987 plane crash
that killed 154 people aboard and two on the ground near Detroit
In the new documentary, “Sole Survivor,”
Crocker breaks her silence, discussing how the crash of the
Phoenix-bound jetliner has affected her.
“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. “I have visual scars. My arms and my legs. And
I have a scar on my forehead.”
Crocker, 30, also sports an airplane tattoo on her left wrist.
got this tattoo as a reminder of where I’ve come from. I see it as — so
many scars were put on my body against my will — and I decided to put
this on my body for myself,” she says in the film.
is expected to have its theatrical premiere and widespread release
later this year. Advance preview screenings are set for Wednesday and
Thursday in Royal Oak, Mich., and May 30 in Minneapolis.
The filmmakers permitted The Associated Press to view the film ahead of the screenings.
movie focuses on Crocker — known as Cecelia Cichan at the time of the
crash — as well as three other “sole survivors” of plane crashes: George
Lamson Jr., a then 17-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., who was aboard a
Galaxy Airlines flight that crashed in Reno, Nev., in 1985; Bahia
Bakari, a 12-year-old girl who lived through a Yemenia Airways flight
that crashed near the Comoros Islands in 2009; and Jim Polehinke, the
co-pilot of a 2006 Comair flight that crashed in Lexington, Ky.
been more than a quarter-century since Northwest Airlines Flight 255
crashed in the Detroit suburb of Romulus. The plane was just clearing
the runway at 8:46 p.m. on Aug. 16, 1987, when it tilted slightly. The
left wing clipped a light pole, and the damaged airliner sheared the top
off a rental car building.
The MD-80 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.
Crocker’s parents and brother were among those killed. They lived in Tempe, Ariz., at the time.
was raised in Alabama by her aunt and uncle who shielded her from the
media and others who sought to delve into her unique past.
Crocker said the enormity of what had happened didn’t really hit her for a while.
I realized I was the only person to survive that plane crash, I was
maybe in middle school, high school, maybe, being an adolescent and
confused,” said Crocker, who was interviewed by the film’s director, Ky
Dickens, over 1.5 hours in Queens, N.Y., in September 2011. “So it was
just extra stress for me. I remember feeling angry and survivor’s guilt.
‘Why didn’t my brother survive? Why didn’t anybody? Why me?’”
As for returning to the air, Crocker “feels fine flying and does so quite often,” Dickens said.
doesn’t scare me. I have this mentality where if something bad happened
to me once on a plane, it’s not going to happen again,” Crocker says in
the film. “The odds are just astronomical.”