Flight 587 Ceremony Set For Crash Site
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that the city will host a memorial ceremony for the 285 victims of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 at 9 a.m. on November 12 at the crash site, Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue.
Unlike the past two years, when the actual memorial ceremony took place at Riis Park, this year’s ceremony will bring family members to the crash site from many parts of the city by bus.
Sources close to the negotiations have told The Wave that they expect an announcement that day on an agreement between the city, the community and the families of the victims for a permanent Rockaway memorial to the tragic accident.
According to Lark Anton, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, the November 12 memorial service will begin at approximately 9 a.m. with a prayer for those who died.
At 9:16 a.m., there will be a moment of silence. That is the hour that the plane actually crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.
At approximately 9:25 a.m., the mayor will lead a procession from the crash site to St. Francis de Sales Church for a memorial mass. The church, at Beach 129 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, is only three blocks from the crash site.
After the mass, family members will be able to get on buses to return to their homes, or to return to the crash site.
Some of the family members, however, will stay away from Rockaway during the memorial.
Hector Algarroba, who lost both his mother and father on the flight, will be in the Dominican Republic for a memorial service at Benin.
"The senate of the Dominican Republic built a Flight 587 memorial for us in Benin," Algarroba told The Wave recently. "It has declared November 12 a national day of prayer for those who died on the flight. That is where I will be."
Yesenia Rivera, who also lost close relatives on the flight, will be absent as well.
"I have my own mass that I say for my relatives in the morning," Rivera said. "I will come sometime in the afternoon for a moment at the crash site."
Both of them, however, plan to be at the Flight 587 Memorial Grove in Astoria Park on Saturday, November 7 at 11 a.m. for a memorial service and the placement of a stone memorial. That site was dedicated last year to the memory of those who died in the crash. The park, virtually under the Queensborough Bridge, overlooking the East River, includes a grove of trees and benches.
While Anton is mum on a permanent memorial for the Belle Harbor crash site, she said, "There was never a thought of putting a large memorial at the site, because the mayor knows that it is a residential area."
Others close to the issue, however, say that there will be a plaque placed in the street on the corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue memorializing those who died.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has been negotiating on behalf of the community, says that the agreement will most likely include a plaque at the corner and a "portion of the Rockaway Tribute Park" on Beach 116 Street that will be dedicated to those who died in the crash."
Weiner says that the memorandum of agreement will be brought to civic and religious groups in Rockaway so they can "sign off" on the agreement.
The city must be involved as well, he said, because somebody has to take responsibility for maintaining the plaque and the memorial and the city is "the obvious choice."
The plan has to be presented to the Board of Directors of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce as well. The chamber has to sign off because that organization is the prime sponsor of the Tribute Park.
Liz Sulik, the executive director of the Chamber, said that the offer to honor the victims of Flight 587 in the Tribute Park would include "a section of the brick walkway" that will make up the internal paths of the park and "benches" as a fitting memorial to those who died in the crash.
The park already includes a glass cupola with the names of those Rockaway residents who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as well as a Firefighter’s Memorial to the memory of all of the FDNY members who died that day.
At press time, there was no information on what would be done with the ad-hoc plywood memorial wall that has stood at the site.
One unsubstantiated rumor says that it will be removed and taken to Floyd Bennett Field for storage, another that it will be taken to Hostos Community College in the Bronx, where it will become part of a permanent memorial to the crash.
The consensus, however, is that it will be removed shortly after the November 12 memorial ceremony.