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Priest, other survivors of Mexico plane crash celebrate thanksgiving Mass

The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez processes toward the altar at the beginning of Sunday's mass. | Adam Thorp/Sun-Times

A priest and seven other survivors of a flight that crashed nearly two weeks ago in Mexico gathered Sunday in Des Plaines to give thanks for surviving the crash.

“You guys cleaned up pretty good [since] the last time we [saw] each other,” Rev. Esequiel Sanchez said as he gathered with his fellow passengers for a special blessing. “The doctors have done their work. Now we have to heal the soul.”

Sanchez conducted the mass Sunday afternoon at Our Lady of Guadelupe Shrine in Des Plaines, where he serves as rector.

The Mexico City-bound Aeromexico plane went down shortly after lifting off July 31 from an airport in northern Mexico, injuring 49 of the 103 passengers, including Sanchez. Sanchez was treated for several fractures to his arm before returning to Chicago.

MORE: A suburban Chicago mother’s tale of survival on Flight 2431 crash in Mexico

Sunday, the priest was joined by fellow passengers and more than 200 congregants for an open-air mass, conducted in both Spanish and English. In his homily, Sanchez reflected on the the meaning he found in his brush with death.

“When you see the picture of the airplane all burned up, you ask the simple question: how is it that anyone gets out of that inferno?” Sanchez said.

Sanchez had previously suggested to media that their survival was miraculous. But Sunday, Sanchez pointed to the decision of passengers to return to the burning plane to help other, more badly hurt passengers as the real miracle of the day of the crash.

“We can say that the miracle was about the airplane crashing and not burning up immediately so people could get out. But the miracle that I see is that there were so many that cared about each other, so many who took that extra step to make sure that you weren’t alone,” Sanchez said.

“Even in the face of a burning airplane you can say, ‘I’m going back, and I am going to get those who need me.’ That’s where that courage comes from. It comes from that infinite and beautiful divine providence.”

Sanchez and his fellow survivors are blessed at the end of Sunday’s ceremony. | Adam Thorp / Sun-Times
Sanchez and his fellow survivors are blessed at the end of Sunday’s ceremony. | Adam Thorp / Sun-Times

Anabel Arredondo, a passenger from Franklin Park, called the service “a blessing. A miracle in itself.”

“We’re just full of blessings. I keep telling [Sanchez], I think we’re his favorites. ‘I don’t know about you, Father, but I think God really likes us,'” Sandra Alarcon, a passenger from Northlake, said.

Sanchez has been a leader of Hispanic Catholics in Chicago for two decades. The children of Mexican immigrant from Durango, Sanchez was born and raised in Chicago.