Hundreds of worshipers gathered outdoors at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines the evening of Aug. 1 to give thanks for the survival of all 103 people aboard Aeromexico Flight 2431, which crashed almost immediately after takeoff from Durango’s General Guadalupe Victoria International Airport July 31. Among the passengers on the plane were Father Esequiel Sanchez, the shrine’s rector, and about 15 of his family members and friends who were in Mexico to celebrate his 50th birthday. The group was flying to Mexico City on their way back to Chicago. Sanchez suffered a broken arm that required surgery. Ignacio Perez, who does media relations for the shrine, said it was prepared for a larger than usual congregation and for the rain, with umbrellas set up to provide some shelter. “People were relieved that Father [Sanchez] was OK and was recuperating after what happened to him,” Perez said. “We prayed for his well-being and the well-being of everyone who was injured.” Sanchez, who spoke with reporters in a conference call before going in for surgery for multiple fractures in his arm on Aug. 1, said it was “absolutely” a miracle that everyone survived. “I’m so grateful that we’re all alive,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t lose anyone, and that to me is a miracle. Thanks be to God.” He described what happened to the flight, which boarded normally. He and other passengers noted that the weather had turned rainy and windy as the plane started taxiing; by the time it was ready to take off, the wind had intensified and hail was falling. Sanchez, who took private flying lessons years ago, thought perhaps that the pilot would postpone the flight. Instead, the engines sped up and the plane started down the runway. “It sounded like we did take off,” he said. “The plane actually did get off the ground. I think it might have been a microburst that pushed the plane back down.” Then he felt the landing gear buckle and the plane slid to the end of the runway and collided with the embankment. Everyone made it out of the plane. “My respect to the crew,” he said. “They did a good job helping everybody get out.” Sanchez said those who remained able-bodied assisted others to get away from the plane, with its flames and billowing smoke, and passengers congregated in small groups in the driving rain. “I tried to minister to those who needed it,” he said. When emergency vehicles arrived, he was loaded into an ambulance with a little girl whose legs were badly burned. Both were taken to a children’s hospital, and then Sanchez was transferred to another hospital, where he learned he’d need a metal plate in his left arm. “I’ll be the bionic priest,” he said.