Husband of Southwest Explosion Victim Speaks Out About Her Loss: 'I Have Not Been Angry Yet'
The husband of Jennifer Riordan, the only victim of a Southwest Airlines engine explosion, opened up about her death for the first time
The husband of Jennifer Riordan, the only victim of a Southwest Airlines engine explosion, opened up about her death for the first time.
While Riordan would not speak about the accident that killed his wife or the investigation currently underway, he did reveal how he and his family are coping in the aftermath of losing Jennifer.
“I have not been angry yet,” he said. “I’m sure it’s coming. I’m keeping my love for her in my heart and I’m staying strong for my children, and I’m soaking in their looks to me.”
While continuing his life without Jennifer, 43, has not been easy, the father of two said it was his children that gave him strength.
“Their looks to me, their hugs to me are what my rock is,” he explained. “And without that, I don’t know what I would do.”
Riordan said prior to her passing, there was always plenty of love to go around between him and his wife, so much so that their final words to each other was, “I love you.”
“Our last conversation was that. She called just to say, ‘I’m going to the airport,’ and we said, ‘love you, safe travels,'” Riordan recalled.
On Sunday, nearly 2,000 of people congregated at the University of New Mexico — Jennifer’s alma mater — for a memorial service in which she was remembered as someone who lived “hands-on and heart open,” according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The bank executive was killed when Southwest Airlines Flight 1380’s left side engine exploded just 20 minutes into the trip. She was wearing her seatbelt but was still partially sucked out of the aircraft when debris from the explosion blew out the window next to her.
Jennifer’s cause of death was blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced last week.
On Sunday, Jennifer’s husband Michael addressed the mourners first, according to a video of the service from local outlet KRQE. The couple’s children joined him onstage.
“Why’s everybody so quiet? This is a celebration,” he told the somber crowd with a laugh.
Jennifer’s friend Diane Harrison Ogawa encouraged attendees to “do as [Jennifer] did,” according to the Albuquerque Journal, and then looked to the future.
“We’ll reminisce about that time 10 years earlier when thousands of people pledged in their mom’s honor to step up,” she said of the service, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “To double our commitment to ask how we might help. To love out loud. To think daily about how we might care for each other and our community. That was the moment out of our collective heartbreak that our community looked to our strengths and our beauty and to each other and we began to change.”
A fellow passenger on the fatal flight previously told PEOPLE about being seated in the same row as Jennifer. Hollie Mackey said she and a teen girl tried to help when Jennifer was pulled out of the plane following the explosion.
“I grabbed onto Jennifer’s belt loop area and wrapped my arm around her waist, and tried to pull her in. The little girl did, too,” the associate professor at the University of Oklahoma told PEOPLE.
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Mackey added that despite their efforts, they couldn’t bring Jennifer back into the plane. Her seatbelt prevented her from being completed pulled out.
“It was more of a helpless feeling than anything else,” Mackey told PEOPLE. “With the altitude and that air pressure at that time, we were not physically able to move her at all… the air pressure was still too much.”
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Jennifer’s family announced Thursday the founding of a memorial website, The Jennifer Riordan Memorial Trust, where people who donate can support causes that were important to the mom, as well as help the family meet financial needs after the traumatic event.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support for our family and the love for Jennifer,” the family said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “Hearing stories of how she impacted everyone in so many meaningful ways has truly touched our hearts. To honor her legacy, an official memorial site has been created to fund causes that were near and dear to her heart.”