Ten years may have passed since the tragic crash of Flight 587, but hundreds of loved ones who gathered to mourn at the memorial site remember as if it was yesterday.
“After 10 years, we still have open wounds from what happened,” said Rafael Almonte, who laid flowers for his brother, Juan Bautista Almonte. “Each day that passes, our wounds open, then close, and open again.”
Family and friends gathered for the 10 year anniversary memorial held in Rockaway Park on Saturday, November 12 to honor the 251 passengers, nine crew members and five people killed on the ground when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor in 2001.
The plane was en route from John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. According to reports, the disaster is attributed to a pilot error in overusing the rudder in response to wake turbulence.
“Over the past 10 years, you have shared strength that has transformed grief into hope and promise… hope that together we will continue to heal and a promise to remember those we lost and to continue making them proud of us every single day,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We honor them each day in countless ways and countless personal ways. Today, publicly, as a people, we also thank those who loved them for keeping their memories alive, for raising their children, and for finding the strength to go on with your own lives,” he said.
A moment of silence followed a bell toll at 9:16 a.m. to mark the moment Flight 587 crashed at the corner of 131st Street and Newport Avenue. Family and friends then read off the names of all 265 victims.
“I don’t really have words to explain because it was so hard for our family,” said Yishel Matos of Bay Shore Long Island, who came with her sister, niece and nephew to mourn the loss of her brother Orlando Matos. “It’s like a puzzle and you’re missing a piece. The family, after he died, was never complete. It really changed our life. We miss him.”
Following the ceremony, several family members visited the actual crash site — located 15 blocks away from the memorial — to lay flowers on the small plaque dedicated to the victims.
“But as you know all too well, every day in the wake of a tragedy is a day of remembrance — a time to honor and an occasion for finding strength,” Bloomberg said. “For every day, we also know that the presence of those that we have loved and lost is always with us.”