Flight 587 Remembered 18 Years Later


As temperatures dropped on a wet Tuesday morning, it did not deter the families of the Flight 587 victims from remembering their loved ones at the annual ceremony marking the anniversary of the crash that killed 265 people on November 12, 2001.

Families from across the city once again returned to the Beach 116th Street Flight 587 memorial on Tuesday, November 12 to remember a tragedy that impacted those from Rockaway, all the way to the Dominican Republic. Eighteen years ago, more than 250 passengers and a crew boarded American Airlines Flight 587 to head to the capital of Santo Domingo on November 12, 2001. Just moments after takeoff, the flight came crashing down in Belle Harbor, with pieces of the plane spanning Beach 128th to Beach 131st Streets. All 260 people on board were killed instantly, as well as five local residents who were home on the day being observed as Veterans Day in 2001; Thomas and Helen Concannon, Kathleen Lawler and her son, Christopher, and Franco Pomponio. Although the tragedy took place 18 years ago, on Tuesday, it was evident that the victims will never be forgotten.

Reverend Eric Cruz of St. John Chrysostom Catholic Parish in the Bronx began the ceremony with a prayer in both English and Spanish. “It is right the day should not pass from the memory,” he said, wishing the families peace as they carry this tragedy with them.

At 9:16 a.m., Detective Dan Byrnes of the NYPD Ceremonial Unit and Firefighter James Sorokac of the FDNY Ceremonial Unit rang a bell to mark the exact moment when Flight 587 crashed, 18 years before. This was followed by family members reading the names of all 265 victims.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who attends the ceremony each year, also provided some words of comfort for the family. “Eighteen years ago, it was what appeared to be a beautiful morning starting out normal, and then a shock, a tragedy as Flight 587 fell from the sky. Two hundred and sixty-five lives lost, and countless hearts broken, and families from Belle Harbor to Santo Domingo felt their lives were shattered. It’s 18 years later, but I know from speaking with so many of you that this day is one of a pain that is sharp and vivid just as much as it was 18 years ago. And grief has not lessened with time, but I also have heard from so many of you the memories, the joyful memories, of those you loved,” he said.

De Blasio also acknowledged the neighbors in Belle Harbor who took action, including the many police and firefighters nearby who tried to help any victims and neighbors in nearby homes that were on fire. He also acknowledged the support system that the families of the victims have formed amongst each other over the years, and the support from New Yorkers following the tragedy.

The ceremony concluded with the families placing flowers along the Flight 587 Memorial wall, next to the names of their loved ones. Among them were mothers, still remembering their lost children, and children, that were too young to know the loved ones who had passed.