By Rebecca Henely
Holding roses and photos of their loved ones, family members of those who died in the 2001 American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Belle Harbor paid tribute in a memorial ceremony Saturday.
“We go 10 years back and it’s hard,” said former LeFrak City resident Yadria Rojas, 31, about how she felt.
Flight 587 went down in Belle Harbor Nov. 12, 2001, at 9:16 a.m., shortly after leaving John F. Kennedy International Airport en route to the Dominican Republic.
The crash killed all 251 passengers, nine crew members and five people on the ground, making it the second deadliest U.S. airline crash after the 1979 American Airlines Flight 191 accident in Des Plaines, Ill. Since the Flight 587 crash occurred just two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many feared it was another act of terrorism, but the cause was later ruled to be pilot error.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the ceremony, which was held at the site of a memorial erected in Belle Harbor and conducted in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
“We honor them every day in countless ways, in countless personal ways,” Bloomberg said of the victims.
Flags of the United States, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, China and Israel were flown in honor of the victims. A bell was rung at 9:16 a.m. and afterward family members read the victim’s names. The Astoria Symphonic Choir and students from Astoria’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts played a flute and cello at the ceremony.
After the ceremony, family members put roses of many colors into the holes of the memorial, which was created in 2006 by Dominican artist Freddy Rodriguez, who lives in Flushing. Rodriguez, who attended the ceremony, said that while he did not lose anyone in the crash, the ceremony was a moving moment for him.
“I have taken this flight back to the Dominican Republic several times, so it touches me in a special way,” Rodriguez said.
Kew Gardens resident Scott Miller, 39, said he remembers the day of the crash in which his now-wife’s father, Baudilio Bautista Garcia, died. He said he could see the smoke from the crash from his 25th-floor apartment, the pillar of smoke not too far away from the smoking cloud left from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
“He was supposed to fly out on 9/11 and this was the next one he caught,” Miller said of Garcia.
Rojas lost her brother Roberto Jimenez and her nephew Jake Joseph Jimenez in the air disaster.
“My nephew was only 10 months old,” she said. “He was a baby.”
Jonathan Rodriguez, 13, an East Elmhurst resident who came with his twin brother Jason, said he has few memories of the three family members he lost: his grandmother Martina Rodriguez and his aunts Angela Maria Bourdier and Maria Isabelle Bourdier Tapia.
“It was good,” Jonathan said of the ceremony. “But it was also sad, too.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.