Rebecca Scruton, 28, a widow seeking solace from her parents, forgot her passport Saturday when she tried to board a flight to Korea. She almost missed her second try Tuesday night, when her ride to the airport fell through.
But Scruton caught a limousine, just in time to make the 11:50 p.m. departure of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.
She and at least 30 other Americans were among the 269 persons who perished with the New York-to-Seoul jetliner, airline officials said. The dead included a South Carolinian Tae Kwon Do instructor who won his ticket in a golf tournament, two elderly Rhode Island factory workers on their annual sightseeing trip, a professor from Pittsburgh en route to a year-long teaching job, a retired Detroit judge on a tour of Asia and Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.).
KAL officials in Seoul and Los Angeles released conflicting passenger lists and, attempting to check the plane's manifests against records in local ticket offices, could not produce an accurate count of American and citizens of other countries aboard the downed Boeing 747. KAL estimates of the number of dead Americans ranged as high as 70.
Friends said Scruton, slender and fair-haired, left her son, Todd, 6, and daughter, Alicia, 2 1/2, with relatives last weekend.
"Alicia is only 2 1/2, so she won't understand," said Deborah Somody, a close friend, "and Todd doesn't know anything yet. My husband and I will have to talk to him. It's going to be really hard."
Friends say Scruton lost her husband, Dale, 30, to cancer in December, and often inspired the congregation at the Calvary Baptist Church in Meriden, Conn., with her born-again faith. She liked to sing soprano solos in the church choir.
"People always wanted her to sing one special song, 'Lord, You Are My Everything,' " said Somody, whose husband, Randy, is Calvary's pastor. "Everyone would just really cry when she sang that on Sunday mornings."
Scruton, who taught Sunday school and made most of her children's clothes, had been drawing pastel-colored characters from A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" on the children's playroom wall when she left to visit her parents in Seoul.
"She hadn't finished painting them yet," Somody said.
Kurt Palardy, a neighbor and friend, said he visited Scruton often after her husband died.
"I'd go over there sometimes to cheer her up, and she'd cheer me up instead," he said. "She was that kind of person."
Other passengers were a cross-section of Americans with a variety of interests, professional and private, in Korea.
Jessie Slaton, 75, had nothing but travel in mind.
A former Detroit Common Pleas Court judge, Slaton was traveling with a half-dozen friends on a two-week tour of the Orient, according to Catherine Blackwell, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.
"She was one of the most outstanding women in Michigan," Blackwell said, "A witty, brilliant 75-year-old with the heart and soul of a young woman."
Former governor William G. Milliken named Slaton as the first chairman and executive director of the state Crime Victims' Compensation Board, which issued a statement saying, "We are shocked and deeply saddened by this news. She is a person who will be difficult to replace."
Slaton also was the first black secretary hired at Detroit City Hall and was a teacher who simultaneously obtained a law degree. Before being promoted to the common pleas court, she was a traffic court judge.
Bill Hong, 41, intended to mix business with pleasure.
A Korean-American who ran a martial-arts school in Greenville, S.C., Hong had won his airline ticket in a local golf tournament, according to his associates at Hong's Tae Kwon Do Institute.
"He was an easygoing and very mild-mannered person," said William Huggins, a senior student at Hong's school. "He'd wanted to come to America to start a new life."
Hong immigrated here in 1967 and was sponsored by a family in Anderson, S.C., before moving to Greenville and opening his school. He also had an import-export business that he planned to visit on his trip, Huggins said.
For Lillian Fitzpatrick, 60, a foreman at a General Electric plant in suburban Providence, it was a pleasure trip. She was on her way to Japan for two weeks of sightseeing, accompanied by her longtime friend and house mate, Lucille Dawson, 57, who was also a factory worker.
"They were friends for years, and they enjoyed traveling," said Fitzpatrick's niece, Linda Murray. Dawson and Fitzpatrick, who retired from GE this year, had planned the trip for months, Murray said.
Flight 007, for Kevin McNiff, 28, of Beverly, Mass., was the start of a year of "learning and adventure" in a teaching job in Taiwan and a tour of the Far East, according to McNiff's twin brother, Michael.
McNiff tended bar in Tuscaloosa, Ala., while working his way through the University of Alabama in Asian studies. After graduation, he took graduate courses and was enrolled in an international studies program through which he got a job at the University of Taichung, according to Professor Edward Moseley, who runs the program.
"He was a great guy. Funny and adventurous," said his brother. "He was going to do some world traveling, but it was also educationally oriented . . . . He came home last week to say goodbye . . . , and he got on the wrong plane."
Neil J. Grenfell, 36, had his job in mind when he booked four seats on the jetliner. He was returning to his job as marketing director for the Eastman Kodak Co. in Korea. An Australian, Grenfell was accompanied by his wife, Carol Ann, 33, and two daughters, Noelle Ann, 5, and Stacey Marie, 3.
"He was very cordial, industrious, had an excellent relationship with our distributor in Korea, and was a good family man," said Kodak spokesman Henry Kaska. "He was highly respected by the company."
Edith Cruz, 23, a Chattanooga resident, had a sadder mission.
Friends said Cruz had booked her seat hurriedly when her grandmother, who had raised her in the Philippines, took ill. By the time she left Tuesday, the trip was for a funeral.
Cruz, who traveled with her uncle, Alfred Cruz, had been a medical technician since 1981 at the East Ridge Hospital.
Friends say she was deeply religious and filled with wonder at her adoptive country, constantly asking questions about Christianity, dating conventions--and automobiles.
"Six months ago, she finally got her first car," said Phyllis Golden, who worked with her in the hospital laboratory. "She only lived a block away, but she'd drive anyway. A bunch of us would see her coming and we'd all run like we were afraid we'd be hit. We teased her a lot."
Flight 007 should have meant an exciting year-long academic appointment for Dr. Chung-Soo Yoo, a research chemist at Pittsburgh's Veterans Administration Medical Center and adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Donald Abraham, chairman of Pitt's medicinal chemistry department, said Yoo had been headed for a teaching post at Korea's Kang Wan National University.
"He was a very productive, warm and cordial person," Abraham said.