2001-11-24 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey


Our community has suffered severe loss and tragedy. Neighbors, friends and relatives are coming together to grieve, console and comfort one another.

The funerals for Kathleen Lawler, her son Christopher Lawler, Thomas Concannon, his wife Helen Concannon and Frank Pomponio brought a community together in sadness and tears. We came to mourn their loss and honor their memories. These lives were taken from us too tragically and quickly. It is hard to believe that such a tremendous loss could happen so suddenly in our peaceful community.

On Sunday November 18th, Mayor Guilani brought our community and that of our Dominican brothers and sisters (who had sustained severe loss when their relatives died in the American Airlines Flight 587 disaster) together for a memorial service in Riis Park. One important part of the day was the setting. Since this was an outdoor service it was imperative that we have good weather. It was a clear and sunny day, which allowed the participants to come together to find solace in the spoken words and the inspirational music. 

At the service Rabbi Michael Miller, the Executive Vice President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, captured the spirit of the travelers on Flight 587. He noted that sons, wives, daughters, husbands and loved ones were concentrating on packing their suitcases the night before the flight. They did say farewell to us but they never said good-bye. He wondered how families from the Rockaway community and the Dominican community could cope with such emptiness. The Rabbi found that what binds us together is a river of tears. These tears themselves are a common language. We pray for the innocent lives that have been taken from us and whose companionship will be missed forever.  It is our God that will sustain us in our loss.

Monsignor Martin Geraghty, whose parish has suffered such severe losses, focused our attention on prayer. He noted that the Rockaway community and the Dominican community are united in pain and united in faith. He looked to the reading of Matthew for words of encouragement at this time of tremendous need. He quoted "Blessed are they who hunger for peace and blessed are the peace makers because they will be called the children of God".  Monsignor Geraghty's sincere sensitivity to the needs of the families prompted him to have the children of St. Francis de Sales School demonstrate a common bond with the flight victims by holding Dominican flags along the route that the families took to the actual crash site. He brought the American flag, the Catholic flag and the Dominican flag together to the site to comfort the grieving families from both communities.

On Friday, we were invited by Florence and Ed Spirier to join a memorial service for the victims of the crash at the West End Temple. One part of the scripture was quoted, which was comforting at this time of loss - "In the rising of the sun and its going down we will remember them; in the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter we will remember them; in the singing of birds and the rebirth of Spring we will remember them; in the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of the summer we will remember them; in the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn we will remember them; in the beginning of the year and when it ends we will remember them; when we are weary and in need of strength we will remember them; when we are lost and sick at heart we will remember them." I would like to thank Florence and Ed Spirier for always reaching out to the community to provide friendship and support. They are a caring, concerned and responsive couple who give a new definition to the meaning of being a good neighbor.

As painful as our loss is we are forever changed by those we lost. I deeply believe that each person made a difference and we will not forget them.

*****Special Note - The Rockaway Park Hadassah's 4th Annual Snowbird Luncheon will be held in La Viola in Cedarhurst on Wednesday, November 28, 2001 at 12 Noon. This is a time for friends to get together and to say goodbye to those who travel for the winter. You don't have to be a member. You just need to enjoy the conversation of friends and neighbors, a delicious lunch and a good time. Please call Marilyn Blicksilver or Lillian Lineoff to make a reservation. They are listed in the phone book. Please come to the luncheon and enjoy a delightful afternoon. 

Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic Distric Leader, Barbara Larkin, President of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association and Nick Di Blasi discuss the needs of the Rockaway community with our US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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