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COMMUNITY RUSHES TO HELP AFTER PLANE CRASH

Just a few shoppers stood on the checkout lines Saturday at Hill's Department Store and the giant Eagle Supermarket, where Saturday is usually among the busiest days of the week. In the parking lot outside, teams of Cub Scouts with plastic garbage bags methodically picked up Styrofoam coffee cups and other litter. Salvation Army trucks, stuffed with contributions from local churches and fast-food restaurants, waited to distribute their haul to emergency workers.

This was Day 2 of the recovery operation resulting from the crash of USAir Flight 427, which on Thursday night plunged into a rugged ravine roughly half a mile from the Green Gardens Shopping Center here.The crash has hit hard in this area, once a region of steel mills, now a semirural bedroom community a few miles north of the Pittsburgh airport, partly because the biggest single employer is USAir. And people have rushed to try to help.

"My department's just been bombarded with phone calls," said Police Chief Freddie David, a barrel-chested figure who, like many of the men here, wore several gold chains with religious medallions around his thick neck.

When the plane plummeted into the wooded hillside looming over the shopping center, people in Hill's Department Store began heaping blankets, still in their plastic wrappings, into shopping carts to rush to cover the presumably injured passengers and crew. At the Pontiac-Oldsmobile dealership across the parking lot, Mitchell Unis moved all the new cars off the showroom floor to make room for a makeshift hospital. It quickly became all too clear none of this would be needed.

At Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Thomas K. McKenna and the other priests have been making themselves available for counseling and sharing prayers around the clock. The principal of the parish school, Sister Jane Fadgen, has already begun counseling sessions for some of the soccer players who were on the town athletic field and saw the plane come down.

"Our parish is full of employees of USAir, and they are just devastated," McKenna said.