2002-05-18 / Front Page

‘This is Consecrated Ground’ Memorial For Flight 587 Draws Relatives To Crash Site

'This is Consecrated Ground'
Memorial For Flight 587 Draws
Relatives To Crash Site


  Prisca Celestino, who held on tightly to her son, Angel, 8 years-old, leaning against a makeshift fence with tears rolling from her eyes, mourned her husband, Angel Celestino, who was killed in the crash. Prisca Celestino, who held on tightly to her son, Angel, 8 years-old, leaning against a makeshift fence with tears rolling from her eyes, mourned her husband, Angel Celestino, who was killed in the crash.

It was a good morning for a memorial service.

The sky was dark with impending rain and the weather matched the mood, as small groups of those who had lost loved ones in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 mingled with large groups of media and clusters of local politicians and civic leaders.

The mourners discussed the loved ones that were lost only six months before right where they now stood.

The local politicians and civic leaders discussed the latest National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report that ruled out terrorist activity, fire and explosion.

The media flocked around, looking for a story, for a quote, for a picture opportunity.

Those with an agenda, with a story to tell, flocked to the media, looking for somebody to listen to their story.

The real story that Friday morning in Belle Harbor, however, was not the contention that the victims of flight 587 should share in the September 11 fund, nor that American Airlines was racist for flying the A300 aircraft only to destinations in South and Central America.

Rather, the real story was told by Prisca Celestino, who held on tightly to her son, Angel, 8 years-old, leaning against a makeshift fence with tears rolling from her eyes, mourning for her husband, Angel Celestino, who had been killed in the crash.

The real story was Monsignor Martin Geraghty of St. Francis de Sales Church, telling the relatives, "We are united in faith, we are united in sadness. This is consecrated ground now because of the people we lost here. We are here because we will never forget them."

Many of the fifty relatives who braved the weather and the Mother's Day traffic to come to Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue placed flowers on the foot of a plywood wall that was turned into a makeshift memorial six months ago in the wake of the crash. The wall was filled with photographs of victims, as well as hand-written messages and poems.

One of those messages said simply, God Bless America."

Hector Algarroba, an Astoria resident who lost his parents in the crash, was the organizer of the memorial. He runs a Queens-based organization that ships donated sports equipment and clothing to poor children in the Dominican Republic.

Algarroba praised Chamber of Commerce President Liz Sulik and the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association for assisting him and for opening their arms to the visitors.

He also thanked the firefighters for responding to the crash.

The NTSB said recently that the investigation as to why the Airbus A300-600 crashed into Belle Harbor is ongoing and that it would be many months, perhaps longer, before a final report is issued by the agency detailing its findings.


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