2001-11-17 / Columnists

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter "We Are Family...And We Will Get Through Even This"

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter
"We Are Family...And We Will
Get Through Even This"

   The talk on the street, its sounds so familiar. They say lightening doesn't strike twice in one place. Yet it just did. How do we begin to grapple with and comprehend the incomprehensible? For our community, which is still reeling from the WTC tragedy, the crash is almost a metaphor for how the worlds of both the Financial and FDNY collided in our community. We
have now just sustained another hit at the very heart of our small sweet town. It is almost too surreal to bare. As the Memorial Masses have begun to wind down, they are about to begin again.
   Throughout the day of November 12, I walked dazed and bewildered around the wreckage site. My reasons for being there were blurred. I was there as a "journalist", I was there as a very concerned relation of some of the victims, but I was mostly there because I wanted and needed to be with my much larger extended family...all of you. Rockaway is the kind of place where you walk "Main Street" (116 Street) and there are flyers hanging in store windows, announcements for fundraisers...a sign that reads, "Benefit For Mondo" and everybody knows that that was Frank Monaghan. We know each other by our nicknames and nuances. We are a place where generations of families reside and live within walking distance of one another. A community with good old-fashioned values and a relentless strength at our core. I have to have the conviction and belief that we are given what we can bare. As much as I love Rockaway, I love it now more than ever. We are a small town jewel in the shadow of a big, and often indifferent, city.
   I could not help but be hit by and take notice of the so many ironies in this tragedy. The fact that the crash occurred on Veteran's Day, when we are still reeling and our Firemen, policemen, and other servicemen are still exhausted and recovering from the WTC. Yet, out of the literal ashes, they rise to answer the call again. Another irony is the location site itself.

The plane crashed at the very heart of Belle Harbor, practically at the very doorstep of Bernie's Harbor Light. My prayers are so much with the Heeran family as they have endured just too much. The site is also exactly where we step off every year for our Saint Patrick's Day Parade. It was absolutely surreal to see the same fire and EMS apparatus that participate in our parade, only yesterday's crash brought out a streaming parade of sirens and the agony and torment it screams of. Reality has a way of intruding upon us in the rawest and least kind of way.

For Kevin and Ilene McKeon of Beach 128 Street, It was just another day. Ilene was in the kitchen just finishing breakfast with her family. Her husband Kevin had just picked his four-year-old daughter Shannon up his arms and kissed her when part of the plane, its wing and engine came crashing down through the house. The impact blew all the walls out along with Kevin and his daughter as they were blown through the yard. The house burst into flames, but they escaped with minor injuries and just the slippers on their feet. At Kevin's mother's house on Beach 126 Street, reporters came in and out throughout the day and into the late evening. Tragedy puts everything into perspective. As Kevin said to his Aunt Bridie, "All that really matters to me is my family." For the McKeons who lost so much materially, all that Kevin wanted were photographs of his children and his wedding ring.

As many in the media descended upon our town from all around the world, each reporter who happened to speak with me could not resist saying how they were so charmed and touched by the people here. A gentleman from CBS News said, "I want to live here and raise a family."

Family really is the most important thing there is and I am so proud to be part of all of you and this most special family we call Rockaway. And with this thread that bonds us together, we will get through...even this.

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