SEATTLE - To Mari Ingram and Stephanie Bower, their neighborhood park is sacred ground.
You want people to know how it came to be and why it's here, says Ingram as she sweeps the park on Queen Anne Hill.
It came to be throughsix neighborhood kids: Cory, Blake, Miles and Spencer Clemetson along with Rachel and Gracie Pearson -- all best friends -- ranging in age from 8 years to just 6 months.
They've been dead longer than they were alive, says Ingram, wiping a tear fromher eye. It's hard to get my head around that sometimes.
On January 31, 2000, the Clemetsons and Pearsons, ten people in all, were returning from a Mexican vacation togetherwhen their plane went down in the waters off Southern California.In a matter of moments they were all simply -- gone.
It's hard to imagine an entire family just disappearing, says Bower. At their house you could still smell the coffee on the kitchen table.
It's like they were trapped in time, adds Ingram.
Bower and Ingram were dear friends of the two families. Their kids played together, went to school together -- but they never got to grow up together. Cori Clemetson would have graduated from high school this year. Rachel Pearson would belearning how to drive.
Last night my older son went to a dance. This morning he took the first part of his driver's license exam. I often think it could be Rachel doing that, it could be Grace doing that, says Bower.
In the 10 years that have passed since the crash the pain has dulled but it's still far from gone. Reminders of that dreadful day are everywhere. As she sits in thepark on a crisp afternoon, Stephanie Bower watches a planefly overhead.
You can never hear the sound of a plane without having a chill run up your spine, she says.
Over the past decade the two women have made it their mission to keep the memories of those 10 beloved friends alive.
They raised money to renovate the park where the kids all played. It's decorated with handmade tiles from those left behind. One reads: Your stars still twinkle in the heavens.
They helped establisha memorial garden at the kids' elementary school, and renamed their Queen Anne playground in honor of 6-year-old Rachel Pearson.
You don't forget people that you love, says Ingram.
On Sunday, the actual anniversary of the crash, there will be a memorial vigil at Queen Anne's Soundview Terrace Park. It begins at 3:30 p.m. and 88 candles will be lit in honor of the 88 people who perished aboard Alaska flight 261. The community is encouraged to attend.
People can also make donations to help in the upkeep of the park andRachel's Playground. They are being accepted at the Homestreet Bank office on Queen Anne Hill. Checks should be made out to Friends of Rachel's Park.