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Mayor arrives early for Flight 587 memorial service in Rockaway Park

By Bill Parry

Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived on 116th Street in Rockaway Park Nov. 12 nearly a half-hour early for the 14th annual memorial for the victims of the American Airlines Flight 587 crash. Last year the mayor received heavy criticism for arriving late and missing the tolling of the bell that marks the exact time of the flight’s impact at 9:16 a.m.

De Blasio spent nearly 20 minutes with family members of the victims before speaking to the nearly 200 people gathered at the memorial site at the boardwalk.

“It has been 14 years—and as I heard from so many people here today, 14 years but the pain is still so strong,” de Blasio said. “There is always the hope that time provides a little healing, but at the same time the grief is sharp and remains intense. On that terrible day 14 years ago, we lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors—the tragedy touched us all. But it was particularly painful for our Dominican community.”

Flight 587 had just departed from Kennedy International Airport and was heading to the Dominican Republic when it crashed off Belle Harbor on Nov. 12, 2001, killing all 251 passengers and nine crew members as well as five people on the ground. Investigators concluded that the plane’s tail broke because the pilots overused the rudder in turbulence caused by another plane. Flight 587 was the second deadliest U.S. airline crash after the 1979 American Airlines Flight 191 crash in Des Plaines, Ill.

“Those who are lost, they will really never vanish,” de Blasio said. “You can see today their memories are strong and they’re being kept alive. And the enduring grace of memory sustains them, and their legacies continue – and in that way, their lives continue.”

Family members clutched pictures of loved ones lost as they placed flowers in the memorial cutouts. The crash happened two months after the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center, triggering fears that a terrorist attack had brought down the plane.

“The Nov. 12, 2001 Flight 587 tragedy marked another significant emotional setback for Rockaway,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said. “Merely a month earlier, many families on the peninsula suffered a direct personal loss following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Since it was during the days of my City Council tenure representing the area where Flight 587 crashed, I remember witnessing the physical and mental stress being experienced by my constituents over the course of those weeks. My prayers continue to be with my Rockaway constituents and the families affected by Flight 587.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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