2001-11-17 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey


It is hard to believe that tragedy could strike our community again. It was my understanding that lightening never strikes twice. However, that is simply not true.

It is truly difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy of the World Trade Center to the numerous families in our area. The Rockaways suffered more losses than any other part of the city. Families have been devastated. Their lives are shattered and can never be the same. How could a devastating tragedy visit us again?

People who don't live here have difficulty understanding our community. Many families have lived here for generations. I am the fourth generation in my family to reside here. This is a community that has deep roots. Families that move to our neighborhood bring other members of their family here to buy a home.

One very distressing part of this scenario is that the plane came down near St. Francis de Sales School.  My sister and I graduated from St. Francis de Sales and obviously received an excellent educational foundation because both of us went on to earn doctorates. Luckily, the school was closed for Veterans Day and will now remain closed for the rest of the week.

Monsignor Martin Geraghty is a bedrock of the Belle Harbor community. He has been extending extraordinary service to all the members of our neighborhood since the September 11th tragedy. He is a tremendous source of religious strength, solace, prayer and support. Since this accident occurred so close to St. Francis de Sales Church and School he and the parish have been drawn into this catastrophic event. My cousin, who is a priest, came to the crash site to offer Monsignor Geraghty his assistance.

Immediately upon hearing of the tragedy I went to the site to offer my assistance. It is very hard to believe that such a thing could happen here. Thanks to the members of the Fire Department, Police Department and the EMS for their tremendous efforts to offer their skilled assistance at this
critical time of need.

A special thank you goes to Bernard Herrin, one of the owners of the Harbor Light. He has turned his restaurant into a service center for all workers at the crash site. He is serving hundreds of meals. He had suffered a tragic loss himself on September 11 when his son who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald as a financial analyst was killed by the terrorists in the World Trade Center.

We opened our home to two of the members of the New York State team who were brought in to set up the temporary morgue at Floyd Bennett Field. They will be staying in our home for a few days.

On one of my visits to the site I met Charles Meier. Charley and Maureen live on Beach 130th Street. When the crash occurred they were assisting a neighbor who needed transportation to Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan for chemotherapy treatment. As a retired Inspector from the NYPD, Charley immediately upon hearing of the crash rushed back to the Rockaways to offer his help in this emergency situation. We are very fortunate to have Charley and Maureen Meier as neighbors. They prove that a career with the NYPD is a dedication to service above and beyond the call of duty.

On Tuesday, I visited PS 114, JHS 180 and PS 225 with my mother Regent Dr. Geraldine Chapey. A special thanks goes to the teachers and administrators who help our children everyday. Superintendent Matt Bromme was also extending himself to assist our children.

My heart-felt sympathies go to the families who lost their loved ones. It is a tremendous tragedy for the Rockaway families and in addition a big tragedy for the families of the 260 passengers and crew on American Airlines Flight 587 who died in our community.

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