Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Members of the Community Meditation Center on the Upper West side met for the first time Sunday without their leader, Allan Lokos, who survived a plane crash with his wife in Myanmar last month.
Lokos, 72, a world-renowned spiritual leader, sustained major burns to his legs, arms and head and has been in an intensive care unit in Singapore since shortly after the December 25 crash. His wife, Suzanna Weiss, 62, suffered broken vertebrae.
The couple is expected to return to New York City on Wednesday; Lokos will be medevaced to New York Presbyterian Hospital and his wife will take a commercial flight.
Members of the center gathered in a basement where Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling and stackable chairs were lined up waiting to hear updates on Lokos and his wife, Suzanna Weiss, 62.
One of the board members, Alyson McCormick, read a letter Weiss sent them:
“Dear sanga, Alan and I are in a strange land, with different languages, foreign customs and traditions, we’ve been in such difficult conditions and desperate circumstances with great physical, emotional and spiritual pain.”
Lokos and his wife founded the center after September 11. It focuses on the practical aspects of Buddhism and meditation.
The couple was in Myanmar for the holidays. They left Mandalay on Christmas Day, heading north for a hiking trip, when their plane crash landed in a field near the airport, bursting into flames.
Speaking from Singapore last week, Weiss says more than 15 years of meditation has prepared them well for this.
“The only way we've survived is being so in the present moment,” she said. “For now we have to put the future aside because it’s going to be a long difficult road, and if you consider that, it would be just overwhelming.”
On Sunday, Lokos’ 38-year old daughter Samantha Koppelman told the standing room-only gathering at the Community Mediation Center that the first time she spoke to her father after the crash, he asked about how the center was doing.
“The most important gift you can give to my father and Suzanna right now, is to continue to show up here, and to bring here your love, your prayers, your kindness and your friendship that has overwhelmed me here from everyone,” she said, fighting back tears.
Lokos has had two skin grafts and remains in good spirits, according to family and friends who've spoken with him.
The center will continue holding sessions until Lokos and Weiss return.