20 Years Later: Flight 587 Remembered

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 Twenty years to the day, family, friends, colleagues and first responders gathered at the Flight 587 Memorial to honor the memory of those lost to its crash.

Gusting winds and downpouring rain did not keep them away as they and guests, including Dominican Consul Eligio Jaquez, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Belkis Lora of the Committee in Memory of Flight 587 and others, came together at the boardwalk end of Beach 116th Street on Friday, November 12.

On that date in 2001, the Dominican Republic-bound American Airlines flight broke apart minutes after its JFK take-off. All 260 aboard and five residents on the ground—Kathie Lawler, her son, Chris; Thomas and Helen Concannon; and Franco Pomponio—were killed when it crash-landed in Belle Harbor. Investigators found wind conditions and pilot error were the cause.

Families and neighbors have gathered every year since to remember.

Many brought flowers and photos and images of loved ones on pins and t-shirts. Others helped older adults, and children who weren’t yet born back then. Uniformed NYPD, FDNY and American Airlines co-workers also attended.

The Flight 587 Committee provided coffee, white roses, memorial programs and plastic ponchos against the rain to all attendees. Many people took shelter under the scaffolding put up for work on a nearby apartment building, as Father Eric Cruz began with an invocation.

A single bell tolled and moment of silence was observed at 9:16 a.m., the time of the crash.

Through driving rain Evelyn Bautista-Miller, Wendy Araujo and Rosalyn Donovan steadfastly read the names of those lost. Tears flowed freely as many surnames were repeated, denoting whole families, children and adults, who perished.

One of several speakers, Mayor de Blasio thanked all “all the people who came in that moment (of the crash) to try to help – the first responders, the people from the neighborhood who tried to help from that moment on.”

To the bereaved, he said, “you have all helped each other, you've been there for each other. You've created a community out of the pain. Thank you for showing your love, your support for each other, for everyone who is feeling the pain at this moment after 20 years. And it doesn't matter the wind, the rain you're here to show that love.”

The group then walked to the Flight 587 Memorial, inscribed with the victims’ names, to place flowers. The sky cleared as they did so.

But even as a pale November sun began to glimmer over the ocean, one person walking away was heard to say, “The pain never goes away.”

Not even after 20 years.

Photos by Dan Guarino and the NYC Mayor’s Office.

By Dan Guarino

 

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