Tears, Remembrances At AA 587 Ceremony
It has been six years since American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a Belle Harbor intersection, killing 265 people, including five local residents who were at home on that Veterans Day morning.
On a cold, gloomy Monday morning this week, family and friends of the deceased joined with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other members of his cabinet, to commemorate the lives of those lost, in a somber ceremony at the Flight 587 Memorial at the southern end of Beach 116 Street.
"This memorial has become a destination for thousands of people who come to this spot to contemplate [the lives of those who were lost]," said Bloomberg during the proceedings.
After reminding the crowd of the words on the entryway into the memorial "Afterwards I only want peace," Bloomberg said, "It is truly our prayer their souls have found peace."
Following the reading by family members of each name of those who lost their lives in the tragedy and a performance by the musical ensemble from IS 143, Bloomberg led mourners into the memorial, which features the names of all those who died that day, to pay their respects and to remember the lives they led.
The Wave spoke with several people who came to mark the day.
Ann Curley, a Belle Harbor resident, talked to The Wave about her friends Kathy and Chris Lawler, both of whom were killed that day.
"I grew up with Kathy," said Curley. "I actually saw the plane go into their house. It is very painful."
Merys Martinez lost her husband of 26 years, Juan, when the plane crashed.
"I am very sad today," said Martinez, of the Bronx.
Agatha Furcal came to the ceremony with her cousin Angel Celestino Jr., whose father was a passenger on the plane. Furcal explained the importance of the day to them.
"It helps us remember my uncle," she said, who added her uncle was going to the Dominican Republic on vacation that day in 2001.
Freddy Rodriguez, who designed the memorial, also attended the ceremony.
"This is more than architecture," said Rodriguez, about the memorial. "This is close to my heart. I think the families appreciate what we did."
Rodriguez also said he is working with the families to build a new memorial in the Dominican Republic.
After the formal ceremony, approximately 100 people traveled to the crash site at Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue. There, they placed flowers around the street-level plaque that was placed at the site three years ago, as well as on the site of the home that has since been built on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Some of the family members reiterated their belief that the memorial should have been built on that piece of land, which many consider "sacred."
"This is like building the 9/11 memorial in Staten Island," one angry family member told The Wave.
Bloomberg spoke at a press conference on the boardwalk on Beach 117 Street after he left the memorial.
"This ceremony gave us the ability to recall the lives of those we lost," said the mayor. "It gives a chance to say prayers for them and to pray that things like this won't happen again.
"I don't think we can feel the loss [they feel]," said the mayor. "But we can express that your loss is our loss."
Bloomberg, who spent time with several family members during the morning, believes the yearly event is "comforting to the families" and promised he would be back in each of the two years remaining in his term. Howard Schwach contributed to this article.