Story & Photos
By Katie McFadden
On a chilly Sunday morning, November 12, the families of the victims of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 came out to remember their fallen loved ones on the 22nd anniversary of the crash.
On November 12, 2001, AA Flight 587, on its way to the Dominican Republican from JFK Airport, came crashing down in Belle Harbor. The crash killed the 251 passengers and nine crew members on board, plus five neighbors on the ground, Helen and Thomas Concannon, Kathleen and Christopher Lawler and Frank Pompino. Just two months after 9/11, many feared it was another act of terror. Federal investigators later determined it was co-pilot error in the wake of turbulence.
Although now 22 years ago, every year on the anniversary, friends and families of the victims, predominantly those among New York’s Dominican Republic community, come to the memorial at Beach 116th Street near the boardwalk for the event. The annual ceremony includes the reading of the names of the 265 victims, speeches by elected officials and the tolling of a bell at 9:16 a.m., the time the flight crashed.
Being 22 years later, among those mourners are now many children who weren’t even alive when they lost their ancestor. Also, among the newcomers to the ceremony was Mayor Eric Adams, who attended for the first time after he was in Puerto Rico during the SOMOS Conference when last year’s ceremony took place.
“On behalf of 8.3 million New Yorkers, my presence here today is to symbolize how much we stand with you during this moment of reflection. And although words cannot take away your pain, although words will not bring back your nieces, your nephews, your uncles, your mothers, your sisters, your brothers, although words will not bring back the memories that you are losing because of during this season of Thanksgiving, you feel as though you were robbed of the ability to spend many more memorable moments with them. Our words are attempts to bring you solidarity and comfort. Our words are our way of embracing you. Our words are our way of telling you we feel your pain,” Mayor Adams said.
“It is so hard and so painful, and it takes so long and really it never goes away. I’m constantly reminded of losing my mother too close to two years ago. I still miss her so much. I still think about her every day. I still wonder how life would be during this time of the year when we sat down together,” Adams continued. “I know that pain is so familiar, and I want to tell you that together we would get through this painful moment together.”
Adams quickly left the ceremony after speaking and placing roses at the memorial. He was followed by Rep. Adriano Espaillat who said a few words, along with Belkis Lora, who organizes the memorial ceremony each year. “We gather once again to honor and remember our loved ones. Today marks another anniversary without the presence or all those we lost on a morning like today. 22 years has passed, and that day is still marked in our hearts,” Lora said. She also acknowledged the artist who created the memorial on Beach 116th Street, Freddy Rodriguez, who died ahead of last year’s ceremony.
Following the speeches, the families were invited up to the memorial to pay respects to their loved ones and leave flowers by their names on the memorial wall.