Only the multicolored roses placed at the memorial softened the harsh November 12 anniversary of the crash of Flight 587, as friends and family members gathered together for the service in Rockaway Park.
“My husband would have been 79 this year,” said Isabel Bautista, who brought a photo of Baudilio Bautista Garcia. They had been married for 32 years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Guillermo Linares, former New York City Commissioner for Immigrant Affairs and the first Dominican elected to public office in the country, joined Bautista and over 100 mourners at the memorial site.
En route from John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed at 9:16 a.m. in this waterfront community. It is the second-deadliest aviation disaster in United States history.
A member of the Red Cross Disaster Chaplaincy Service, Rabbi Bennett Rackman handed packages of tissues to the visitors. He worked at JFK on the day of the disaster and went immediately to Peninsula Hospital to see if he could be of service.
“There were only police and fireman who had minor cuts and bruises,” he said. “There were no survivors.”
Patricia Mills stood silently in the rain as she clutched a portrait of her sister Michele who died. Michele had been a flight attendant for American Airlines for 23 years. Mills says she comes every year to honor her sister’s memory.
Several family members also paid a visit to the crash site, located on Beach 131st Street, and laid flowers next to a plaque that commemorates the event.
For some, the memorial’s location is still controversial because it is not located at the actual crash site located in a residential area. Instead, the memorial was placed at the end of Beach 116th Street, a commercial district, overlooking the ocean.
“There will always be a strong connection to the crash site, but the decision process brought everyone to realize the memorial is a place that was more suitable,” said Linares. “People have come to terms with it and embrace where it is today.”
Rabbi Rackman lives less than three blocks from the crash site and comes to the memorial service each year.
“When a human being is suffering,” he said. “The instinct of another should be to help and comfort them.”