Grief Grips Riis As Thousands Pray
By Howard Schwach
Had it not been for thousands of people grieving for their lost friends and relatives, it would have been a "Rockaway Day" to enjoy.
The day was sparkling and sunny, warm for early November. Gulls wheeled overhead and the ocean lapped gently at the sand.
It was not, however, a day to enjoy the beauty of the beach.
Instead, it was a day to pray and to grieve.
The crowd of 4,000 had gathered in the Rockaway venue, just a few miles from the crash site where Flight 587 came to ground last Monday in Belle Harbor, at the behest of Mayor Giuliani, who called the prayer service a "chance for two grieving communities to join in their sorrow."
Indeed, there were many Belle Harbor residents joining the thousands that came by bus from various Dominican communities around the city. Flight 587 had been bound for the Dominican Republic and many on board came from that nation.
Prior to the ceremony, the Dominicans were taken to the crash site at Beach 131 Street. There, they were greeted by Rockaway residents providing food, beverage and solace. Children from St. Francis de Sales School, carrying Dominican flags, lined the streets. Members of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association provided the food and beverage.
The hour-long multi-faith ceremony featured "soothing words and uplifting hymns," according to one report.
Many local and national politicians were in attendance, including Senators Clinton and Schumer, Mayor Giuliani, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Governor Pataki and others.