Memorial service honors victims of the Flight 587 tragedy 18 years after it crashed in the Rockaways

Photo courtesy of Mayor's office

A memorial service was held in Rockaway Park Tuesday to mark the 18th anniversary of the Flight 587 tragedy that killed 265 people.

The American Airlines flight heading to the Dominican Republic crashed in the Belle Harbor neighborhood three minutes after taking off at JFK Airport across Jamaica Bay on Nov. 12, 2001.

“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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Two-hundred-sixty-five lives lost, and countless hearts broken, and families from Belle Harbor to Santo Domingo felt their lives were shattered.”

The mayor comforted family members off the victims as they gathered at the Flight 587 Memorial at the north end of 116th Street where bells rang at 9:16 a.m. to mark the moment of impact. Investigators would later determine a broken rudder was to blame after the pilot hit the wake turbulence of a preceding jet and lost control of the aircraft.

“It’s 18 years later, but I know from speaking with so many of you that this day is one of pain that is sharp and vivid just as much as it was 18 years ago,” de Blasio said.

The aircraft slammed into the ground at Newport Avenue and Beach 131st Street. The panic on the ground in Belle Harbor was exacerbated by fear of another terrorist strike so soon after the Sept. 11 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, claiming the lives of so many first responders who lived in the Rockaways.

“Only two months after our still grieving city and its people witnessed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Queens suffered another tragedy when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor, killing 260 people on their way to the Dominican Republic, and five of my constituents on the ground on Nov. 12, 2001,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “On this solemn day, the entire Queens community remembers all those who lost their lives as well as the family and friends that they left behind.”

A moment of silence was observed and the names of the victims were read during the solemn memorial.

“If there is comfort to be found, it is in each other,” de Blasio said. “Families uniting to support each other and this community of people brought together in tragedy. But you have built something together, a very special community of love and warmth that supports each other and not just one day a year, but throughout the year.”

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