Cokie Roberts, Who Lost Dad in Plane Crash, Moved by Families' Grief

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 12:02 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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Veteran ABC news correspondent Cokie Roberts, whose father was presumed dead in a plane crash, said her "heart just goes out to those families" of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crash.

"I really do understand what these families are going through, and I feel terribly for them," Roberts said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday.

Roberts' father, House Majority Leader Thomas Hale Boggs Sr. of Louisiana, disappeared in a plane crash in 1972 while campaigning in Alaska for Rep. Nick Begich. The two boarded a twin-engine Cessna 310 for a flight — arranged by young Democrat Bill Clinton — from Anchorage that never made it to its destination of Juneau.

U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force planes searched for 39 days, but neither the wreckage of the plane nor the remains of Boggs, Begich, his aide Russell Brown, nor pilot Don Jonz were ever found. The accident later led Congress to require emergency locator transmitters in all U.S. civil aircraft.

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"It was the biggest search in American history at that point," Roberts said. "We brought in our spy planes … Literally, we wrote the map of Alaska but never found the plane. And there were all these sightings along the way, and people calling and saying they had heard something, some radio communication, and then the psychics came in and all of that, because people can't wrap their minds around the idea of a plane just disappearing into the bottom of the sea."

The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared March 8. On Sunday, Roberts offered a grim assessment of the situation during an appearance Sunday on "This Week." She told co-host Martha Raddatz, the families "should probably expect never to see their loved ones again, and that plane is probably at the bottom of the sea."

The next day, authorities concluded the plane went down in the Indian Ocean. On Wednesday, the ongoing search turned up a field of debris in the ocean that could be related to the missing plane.

Roberts said she sees the same difficulty in acceptance in the reactions of the family members of the passengers of Flight 370.

"I know why those families are saying to the Malaysian government, 'Why are you just telling us that without any proof?'" Roberts said. "Well, they do have the equivalent of proof, but that's very hard for people to accept."

From her experience, Roberts said, accepting the fact that loved ones won't be returning is "never easy," and illogical behavior can be expected in coming months.

"There was a period of time when I was sort of afraid to change the wallpaper in the kitchen, thinking that maybe he'd come [home] confused down the driveway and not recognize the kitchen," Roberts said of her father's disappearance. "But that's an irrational part of you that we all have. The rational part of me said from the beginning, you know this plane is at the bottom of Prince William Sound, which is very, very deep and will never be found."

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