On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 departed JFK International Airport en route to the Dominican Republic. At 9:16 am, seconds after take off, the jet crashed into the community of Belle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers and crew and five Belle Harbor residents.
People from France, Haiti, Israel, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and Puerto Rico were on the flight. Yet the majority were of Dominican descent, traveling to their homeland, or returning from visiting family. The plane struck the ground at the intersection of Beach 131st Street and Newport Avenue, where members of the fire and police departments (many of them off duty) and numerous volunteers rushed to the scene. Despite their heroic efforts, the crash of Flight 587 stands to date as the second largest aviation tragedy in U.S. history.
All New Yorkers were devastated by this terrible event, occurring only two months and a day after the World Trade Center attack. The communities of Washington Heights and Belle Harbor were uniquely affected. Many of the passengers lived in and around Washington Heights. Belle Harbor was home to many police officers and firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
These communities, together with the families of the victims and the city of New York, have created this monument to honor those who perished and ensure that we never forget those we have loved and lost.
Freddy Rodriguez, a Dominican-born New York City artist, designed the Flight 587 Memorial that stands near the beach in Rockaway, Queens. It was dedicated on November 12, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the day the packed Airbus A300 crashed in nearby Belle Harbor.
Placement of the Memorial was controversial: many of the victims’ relatives wanted it to be built at the scene of the disaster, while residents opposed the idea, saying it would create a constant reminder of the horror that had traumatized so many of them. The conflict was resolved by placing the structure within the boundaries of the neighborhood, but about 15 blocks from the crash site.
The Memorial stands at the end of a street full of shops and apartments near the Ocean Promenade. Its curving wall has window-like openings providing broken views of the Atlantic Ocean. Near the center of the wall is an open door angled towards the Dominican Republic. The rose granite blocks are inscribed with the names of all 265 of the victims. A large block is inscribed with the description of the incident (quoted above).
Directly above the door are the words of the late Pedro Mir, Poet Laureate of the Dominican Republic: “Después no quiero más que paz (Afterwards I want only peace).”