2015-11-18 / Front Page

Flight 587 Families Bundle Up To Share Memories

By Liz Goff
Families and friends of the victims of Flight 587 bundled up against a bone chilling rain on November 12 to remember loved ones that perished 14 years ago in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587.

The American Airlines airbus slammed into a neighborhood in Belle Harbor, Queens at 9:16 a.m. on November 12, 2001, moments after taking off from JFK International Airport, headed to the Dominican Republic. All 260 people on board the flight and five people on the ground were killed in the crash – the second worst aviation disaster in U.S. history.

It was a very different memorial from last year, when Mayor Bill deBlasio infuriated family members by arriving so late that he missed the tolling of a bell marking the moment the plane crashed and the reading of the victims names. DeBlasio at first blamed his lateness on foggy weather, then said he hadn’t slept well the night before and was “sleepy, sluggish” on the morning of the memorial.

DeBlasio arrived a few minutes early this year, giving him time to walk up to the memorial in Rockaway Park where he made a speech before the bell tolled. “As I’ve heard from so many people today, it’s been 14 years but the pain remains strong,” deBlasio said. “Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and neighbors.”

Justio Cruz, whose mother-in-law, Regina Arroyo, was killed in the crash wasn’t impressed by deBlasoo’s appearance. “He made sure to get here early, but it was all for show,” Cruz said.

Cruz eyed deBlasio in the crowd as his wife sat nearby, hugging a photo of her late mother. “He wants to look good for the newspapers tomorrow,” Cruz said. “I think he was trying to make up for last year, but I don’t think he’s really sincere.”

The families gathered again this year at the memorial at Beach 112th Street in Belle Harbor where they said the death of their loved ones is still surreal, despite the fact that 14 years have passed since the crash. “We loved them and we miss them every day,” Katie Battista said. Battista spoke through tears, saying the shock of the sudden loss “doesn’t go away.”.

The plane slammed into a home at Beach 131st Street, just a block away from homes devastated by flooding and fires that tore through the neighborhood during Hurricane Sandy.

November 12, 2001 was a bright, sunny day, much like the day two months earlier when terrorists struck the World Trade Center. Relatives waved goodbyes to family members who boarded Flight 587 – most anticipating reunions with mothers, fathers and grandparents in the Dominican Republic. The joyful anticipation turned to horror and disbelief for relatives left behind at JFK Airport, many of whom had not left the airport when word came of the crash.

Relatives gathered at the service bowed their heads in prayer as the bell tolled at exactly 9:16 a.m.  “There is still such deep sadness here,” Cruz family member said.


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