2006-09-22 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The dual ceremonies in Tribute Park to mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center were stunning and appropriate. The small triangle park has become the perfect setting for remembering those Rockaway residents who died in the September 11, 2001 attack. The morning ceremony drew 150 people to see first responders, some of whom were involved in the aftermath of 9/11, raise a flag to half-staff. Then, Kerri Hynes, daughter of fallen firefighter Walter Hynes, released butterflies into the clear and crisp sky. There were more people at the evening flag-lowering ceremony because many of the family members went to Ground Zero for the memorial service there in the morning and returned to Rockaway in late afternoon. Taps was played and the glass cupola with the names of all the local victims was lit. While the flag-lowering ceremony was brief, many family members remained in the park until after 11 p.m., sitting on the benches and looking at the Manhattan skyline where the two buildings of the World Trade Center once stood. It was all very moving and wonderfully done.

Schermiela Palmer was by all accounts a very good young lady and an outstanding student. She sang in her church choir and was a member of the Brooklyn Borough Chorus. Last year, she performed with the chorus at Carnegie Hall for Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She was headed for law school after college. The one fault that eventually caused her to collapse and die on the track at Beach Channel High School was that she was overweight and could not run the required 220 yards in under three minutes and ten seconds as required by the school's gym program. Her older sister told us that she did not like to run, but that she had failed gym last year because she could not make the run in the required time. She did on September 13 and then she died. We have to wonder why a school can fail a student who is physically unable to complete a task in gym, whether it be climbing a rope or running a required distance. Students who don't want to perform should be failed. Those who genuinely can't perform should not.

It is hard to believe that we may have seen the last of State Senator Ada Smith, often called "The Wild Woman of Albany" by her detractors (and some of her supporters as well). While it is highly unusual for an incumbent to lose a reelection bid, especially after 20 years in the Senate, the first unofficial tally from the primary election shows that Smith lost to her challenger, Shirley Huntley, by approximately 197 votes. There are not many experts who expect that there will be sufficient paper ballots (still to be counted) that will change the outcome. Those of you who read The Wave regularly will know that Smith was stripped of her power and perks last year after being accused of throwing a scalding hot cop of coffee at an aide, the latest in a long line of run-ins with police officials. Huntley believes that all of the stories in the paper helped her win the primary. "I'd like to give a medal to all of the newspapers," Huntley said. "The press had a lot to do with it," meaning her win over Smith. Smith, who represents Broad Channel, has not been one of our favorite politicians and we will be glad to see somebody fresh in the job. Huntley still has to face a Republican challenger in November, but her district usually goes strictly Democratic.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has announced that the city will soon be installing 50 new red light cameras on city streets. That will double the number of cameras that record motorists going through intersections on a red light. DOT officials can then print up a ticket to be sent to that motorist's home address. More money for Mayor Mike to spend on consultants and friends. The mayor says that the cameras make the intersections safer, but he adds that they have brought in roughly $85,000,000 to city coffers since December of 1993, when the program began. Where will the new cameras be placed? The city isn't talking, so beware.

We are now about seven weeks away from November 12, the fifth anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor. Construction crews are hard at work to complete the new AA 587 Memorial being built at the southern end of Beach 116 Street so that this year's anniversary memorial can be held at that spot rather than at Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street (the center of the crash site), where it has been held for the past four years. Many family members have told The Wave, however, that they will continue to go to the crash site each November 12 because that is where their loved ones died. Still others plan to go again to Benin in the Dominican Republic, where a memorial to those who died in the American Airlines flight was built three years ago. Those who are interested in a re-creation of the crash, the National Geographic Channel just did an hour long show about why the crash occurred as part of its "One Minute to Disaster" series. Although we don't agree with its opinion, it is a compelling program to watch.

There has been lots of comment on Managing Editor Howard Schwach's column about turning Jamaica Bay into another Baltimore Inner Harbor by cutting a canal through the peninsula at about Beach 40 Street. The comment was about equally divided among those who called the idea "pie in the sky" and those who thought that some organization such as the Chamber of Commerce or the community board should take a hard look at the idea. In any case, it got people talking and that's always a good idea.

In last week's edition, editor Howard Schwach wrote of review of the National Geographic's program about the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway in November of 2001. In the televisions show, part of the "Seconds From Disaster" series, Schwach erroneously named one of the families involved in the crash as "the Shurr's," when it should have been "the Shorr's." We apologize for our error and hope that it did not cause any embarrassment to the family.

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