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Flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens a month after 9/11.

Remember that plane crash in Queens, NY a month after 9/11? They are finally building a memorial for the 260 people that died on American Airlines Flight 587. The AP story illuminates the typical NY issues that crop up when you have ethnicity and class issues over turf and sentiment getting in the way. This is one unique aspect of life in NYC I didn’t miss at all when I returned to NC.

The crash devastated two close-knit communities – the Dominican-American enclave of Washington Heights in Manhattan and Belle Harbor, an oceanfront part of Queens just south of Kennedy Airport that is home to firefighters and other city workers.

Most of those aboard the flight were Dominicans traveling to visit their homeland or to see relatives there. Five victims were killed on the ground, dealing Belle Harbor a fresh blow just a month after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack.

Belle Harbor residents resisted the idea of a memorial in their neighborhood, saying it would disturb the peace and provide an unwelcome reminder of a devastating time.

Their resistance and the rebuilding of homes on the site has angered victims’ relatives, who say the spot where the plane fell is sacred ground.

Off topic, but was there any valid explanation for why it happened? I have relatives in Queens, and it was a frightening time. Everyone there assumed that some kind of terrorism was involved. What was interesting is that, despite all the (logical) time it takes for the NTSB to find out a cause for a plane crash.

The official explanation, at the end of this story says, “The National Transportation Safety Board ruled last month that turbulence prompted the co-pilot of Flight 587 to aggressively move the rudder back and forth to try to steady the Airbus A300 plane. The movement put excessive pressure on the tail, tore off its vertical fin and sent the plane plunging.”

I don’t know if anyone there really believes this, but that’s what we’ve been told.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding