Plane Crashes In Rockaway
November 12, 2001

Once again our beloved Rockaway has sustained yet another tragedy.  This morning, November 12, American Airlines Flight 587  bound for the Dominican Republic crashed into Rockaway at around 129th Street.  Many homes are still burning as I write these words.  Those of us who have had to endure such heavy hearts over the recent loss of life on September 11th, are once again shaken by this unbelievable event.   Carol and I pray for our Rockaway families who are involved and for those on the plane who lost their lives.

Below are notes I have received and the CNN story of a few moments ago.  Also I received this note from a producer of the Today Show and another from someone at Reuters News Service and now a third from a journalist in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.

"It's Mary Ann Zoellner.  I'm a producer at the Today Show.  Please if you are there call me at 212-664-5239 or 917-796-1566 or email me your number.   We are looking for an eyewitness of the crash

Thank you.

Mary Ann Zoellner    Email address:

I am a reporter in desparate need of help. I found your page on the Internet and would really appreciate it if you can put me in touch with a Rockaway's real estate broker's cell phone ASAP -- we're trying to learn as much as we can about today's tragic plane crash -- including who owned the buildings hit by the plane.

Thank you.

Jonathan S. Landreth
Reuters News Service
3 Times Square, 19th Floor
New York, New York 10036
1 (646) 223-6015 (direct telephone)
1 (646) 223-6001 (general fax)
1 (917) 686-5785 (mobile telephone)

I am a freelance journalist in Newfoundland, Canada interested in talking to any eyewitnesses of today's terrible plane crash.
Please contact me if you know of anyone who may be willing to talk to me.


Danette Dooley
Mount Pearl, Newfoundland
709 368 0914


I am a journalist from Melbourne in Australia.  I am doing a story on today's tragedy in Rockaway.  Is there any way I could call you this evening to discuss what has happened?  Please e-mail me with your number if this is possible.

Leela de Kretser
Herald Sun
+61 3 9292 1955

As you know, our sweet homeland was hard hit by today's tragic plane crash.  Belle Harbor lost so many people on September 11, and now this. I am uploading a portrait of St. Francis De Sales, the church on Rockaway Beach
Blvd and B.129th.  Many firemen, police and WTC workers who died int he WTC had their funerals there. Today the space is being used as a morgue. Far Rockaway High School has so many alumni, I wondered if we couldn't all pray together, in whatever faith, for a healing.

Best to you,

Donna Gaines (1968)


Everyone here in Rockaway Beach, Oregon wanted to extend our heartfelt  sympathy to all of you, first over the Sept. 11 attack, and also now the  plane crash that took place. Please know that you are all in our hearts and

We have always wanted to contact someone there to see about making your Rockaway Beach our sister city. We have a great little city here, right on the beach. Our website count increased dramatically the day of, and the day
after, the crash, we know it was due to people searching for your Rockaway Beach.

We hope that you will have some time to visit our website at and learn more about us. In the meantime you are in our prayers.


Robin McDonald
Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce
Rockaway Beach, Oregon

To all of my friends,

As you have already heard, our "home" has sustained another blow.  When I first heard about this, I was just checking my mail. Trying to get back to "normal" as "they" said we should.  The first image that I thought of was that of the plane slicing through Bayswater.  After all, at the end of Healy Avenue is Jamaica Bay and about 1/2 mile to a mile is Kennedy.  When I found out it was in Belle Harbor, I was relieved and saddened at the same time.  These two emotions have been juxtapositioned more than once since 9-11.  Relieved that Bayswater was not hit but shocked, horrified, and saddened that Belle Harbor was.  I only hope that no one that we knew was a victim today and my deepest sorrow goes out to the victims in the air and on the ground today.

Oh when will this nightmare end?  Just when New York is stirring from the assault in September, this happens.  The politicians say we will survive.  We are tough and resourceful but they go back to their safe homes and deal with politics and make their speeches. The rest of us must look world through eyes that see the world as a physical, therefore real world.  Whereas they see it through the political and surreal eyes of those who use reality for political mileage.  At another time I will comment on the former statement, as for now let it stand on it's own merits.

We will get through this but not with the powers that be but in spite of them.

Take care,

Howard Klein, 1969

Bit of a shock on the 12th- My cousin that also grew up with me-class of 72-Martha Hochberger lives on 139th and Beach Channel Drive--obviously did not get hit- but felt the impact in her house- said that the house was catapulted off her foundation- -

Other people that still live there that I know -includes Joel Hamburger- Class of 63 or 64 I live near Ray Horowitz- Class of 63- and we spoke- his house that he grew up in is gone-It's such a horrible horrible feeling-being so far away-and having your childhood's memories disheveled- and worse....I'm devastated about it- How can this happen to my hometown?

Do you know my brother- Arthur Schwartz- class of 62?-His picture is on the web- Bobby Hoffman took it.
I still keep up with many of my own classmates and those in the class of 66.-Sherill Langsam Cavaliere(66), Rory Cavalier(64), Judy Apfelbaum Karp(67), Mal Apfelbaum Klueger(66), Vicki Mehl(66), Arlene Solomon(66) Lynn Zucker Rosenblatt(66), Jeannie Schwartz(66), Susan Cohen Strange(67), Sandy Hirsch Wescott(67)

Robert Brownstein(67), David Roth(67);Richard Hochberger(67)-my cousin. Lloyd Schwartz (72)-my brother; Larry Langsam(72)Sherill Langsam Cavalier's brother, Anita Kramer Van Elden(66), Eileen Spakeoff Granitt(68); Frank Granitt(64)  To name a few-

The 100th year Reunion you folks organized was a major highlight in my life-It brought back so many memories and good feelings- and supported all that I've remembered and dreamed of. Your web site and the time and effort that you have put in it- You and Carol Marston-has also been absolutely wonderful- and have made a big difference and major in my life-I look forward to going on-line and hearing from people that I really liked and lost contact with. You can never replace your childhood friends or memories.Thank you for all of your efforts, time, devotion and all and all hard work that you've put in- you really have made a difference in my life and I am sure in many other people's as well.

Keep in touch

Terry Schwartz Moskowitz       Email address:  Terry.Moskowitz@DFA.STATE.NY.US

Dear Terry,

Thanks so much for your kind words about the Rockaway website.  Carol and I will take all the credit for it but just know that it is a labor of love and has become our mission.  Also worth noting is that without the wonderful contributions of 'stuff' from all of our viewers, the pages would be empty. As for the 100th Anniversary Reunion, we attended but were not involved in the organization of it.  Our contribution was just spreading the word through our websites which reached a lot of people.  The organization was done by the 'old' alumni association which has since disappeared from sight!

The recent crash of the airbus in your neighborhood has saddened all of us here.  We feel that you have endured so much already that this is just too much.  Our hearts and prayers go out to you.
Very truly,

Fred Jinkins    Houston, Texas

Wow - I am still devastated as well as in a state of shock! This is very unfortunate and sad. I used to work on 113th Street at St Johns Home for Boys which was only a few blocks away from this tragic event. I've planned a trip home for Thanksgiving next week.  I'll be leaving from Atlanta to come home. Nevertheless nothing will stop me from coming home to Far Rockaway.  If there is anything I can do to help my fellow residents, please let me know.


Bernard K. Blackmon

Dear Skip and Carol,

I'm devastated for the people of the Rockaways.  I grew up on 133rd Street between Newport and Cronston, went to and graduated from P.S. 114 and can't believe that this could happen to my "home".  All the years in Belle Harbor whether it was working at my mother and dad's store, Estelle's Shoes or being married to Chet Maskin of Maskin's Mens Shop on 116th Street, were bliss.  My kids only know of the quality of life, the warmth of the people in that area.  My daughter was born in Rockaway Beach Hospital, my son in Peninsula Hospital Center.  All these memories are brought into the reality that this tiny peninsula of approximately 200,000 people are my family and will always be.  The disaster on September 11th certainly took its toll on these wonderful people and now with this new trauma, I can only sympathize with the community I loved so much. I  hope that there will be no more sorrow for this long standing, God loving peninsula, rich in values, modest in their life style and profoundly beautiful.  My heart is broken.


Vivian (Gertzkis) Maskin 1956

Please read the article written about the crash in the Miami Herald today.  You can get it on their web site (I dont know how to forward it).   My brother Marty Silverberg (Class of '73) knows one of the reporters and told them the following story which they included in their article.

Mike Moran, a Rockaway Beach  man who lost his brother and 12 friends who were firefighters on Sept. 11, announced to the whole world, on the Oct. 20th fundraiser (Paul MaCartney's), that Osama Bin Ladan should kiss his Irish backside, and that  he should come and get him in Rockaway Beach.

Is this just a cooincidence?  Hopefully thats all it is, but its very scary.


Lisa Silverberg (Class of '69)

We may be upstate, but we are all in the same family "New York"  We here in the small Village Of Montour Falls, NY send you our prayers and our love.  It seems like you people are receiving the ultimate test.  Not a day goes by that I don't remind  people, at least for now, we don';t have any problems! I remind them of New York City, Washington DC and Pa.   Our thoughts are with you.

Jack Cleary, Mayor

I'm still reeling from the sight of the flaming wreckage.  My son-in-law called to alert me to the news and my first words to him were "that's my home."  That shocked even me who has lived elsewhere for 42 years.  This is just a note to thank you again for all you have done to preserve that "home" for the rest of us and all you've done to support the Rockaways during this time of trial.  God Bless.

Patricia Feller

Thank you for the information you posted about the plane that crashed on November 12.  I lived in a house on 132nd and Newport Avenue and got chills when I heard about the location of the crash. The sand of the Rockaways never leaves your shoes.

Barry Kaplan 1965
Hollywood, FL

Have some chicken soup and get well soon

How wonderful it would be if this would help solve the problems for 'our' Rockaway! Catching the news this morning in California made me leap out of bed and turn on the TV.  I thought it can't be - not again - I used to live on that street, and no Katie Couric it is not Far Rockaway and all the streets running North and South are called Beach!  But talking back to the news didn't make it any less real!  I called my sister in New Mexico so she could tune in too. Was and is fate playing havoc with a small bedroom community that up until this year was hardly
known?  But I suppose that's like saying, Why Me Dear G-d? May the words of my mouth and the tears in my heart reach those in need and may we say, no more!

Carol Werfel (55)

Hi Skip,

Don't know if you have heard yet, but an AA airbus crashed this morning in Rockaway. (129-133rd St & Newport Ave)  4 homes are badly damaged, others are burning, too.  Part of the engine fell  onto the ground at an area gas
station.  FBI beleives that there was an explosion on board, before the crash.  It is not know if this was due to mechanical failure or sabotage. I am hearing that 15 individuals were brought to Peninsula Hospital.  They are being treated for minor injuries and smoke inhalation.  These people were from the neighborhood....


Ethel Wagner ('62)

Carol & Skip,

Thanks for updating the website for all of us. Very chilling news. Pray that all is well, 'back home'. Take care, and again, thanks for all your effort and meticulous work.

Sandra Westcott '67 (in Arizona)

Thanks for putting up the latest info on our web page. I live in Palo Alto, California and saw the horror on television.  Frightening & Tragic

Condolences and my heartfelt sympathy.

Linda Kaplan
FRHS class of 1960

CNN Coverage of the Crash

NEW YORK (CNN) -- For residents near the beaches of New York's borough of Queens, a quiet Veterans Day holiday brought a fresh beaches of New York's borough of Queens, a quiet Veterans Day holiday brought a fresh taste of catastrophe Monday.

Numerous residents, many with children home for the day, saw American Airlines Flight 587 catch fire and plunge to earth Monday morning. Black smoke billowed over the neighborhood from the crash scene and from at least three other sites, where flaming debris caused other fires.

More than 40 fire trucks and 200-plus firefighters were dispatched to the scene.

The neighborhood is home to numerous New York firefighters, who took heavy losses in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Several other neighborhood residents worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a bond-trading firm decimated in the twin towers' collapse.

"The Rockaway community was hit hard between the firefighters and civilians who were lost at the World Trade Center," said Chief Jimmy Trudden of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department. "For this to happen in this neighborhood, it's tragic. I can't put it into words."

Witnesses said they saw an explosion on one side of the plane before the crash, but different accounts placed the explosion on different sides of the aircraft. Ethan Moses said he saw the aircraft burning from its left side, then the aircraft's left engine fell off.

"It tilted to the left slightly and it made a nosedive, straight down," Moses said.

Firefighters said one of the Airbus A300's two engines fell off, crashing into a house and setting it on fire.

Another woman described the neighborhood around the crash site as a scene of "complete and utter terror. Everybody is so distraught and upset and in shock," she said.

When the plane approached, "I thought it was like the Concorde and it was flying too low," she said. "Then it hit. It was like a bomb exploded."

The crash occurred about five miles from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the jet had just taken off for the Dominican Republic's capital Santo Domingo.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. warplanes have patrolled the airspace around New York. Susan Locke, who lives about five blocks away, said she thought the noise at first was a fighter jet.

"I looked out the window and saw a plane nose-dive, straight down," she said.

Phyllis Paul, who lives near the crash site, said a "big, silvery piece of metal" fell behind her house before the plane went down. Paul, who was eating breakfast when she heard the plane, got her 10-year-old son and got out of the house.

"I was sitting having breakfast and I heard the engines very loud," she said. "They were loud and low, and because of what happened September 11, it gave me a chill."

Rockaway Wave Coverage of the Crash

New York Times Coverage of the Crash

Another New York Times Article

Washington Post Coverage


Left Reeling After the Sept. 11 Attacks,
A Queens Enclave Watches the Sky Fall


BELLE HARBOR, New York -- Residents here can't be blamed for wondering: How many bad things can happen to a good neighborhood?

Home to large numbers of firefighters, emergency workers and money men, this enclave of the Rockaway section of Queens found itself host to scores of funerals after terrorists commandeering two commercial jetliners brought down the Twin Towers on Sept. 11.

Then, Monday morning, an American Airlines Airbus 300 fell out of the sky right on top of Belle Harbor, destroying four houses and damaging at least 16 others. Even if terrorism seemed to be fading as a cause of the crash, terror continued to reverberate in the neighborhood hours after the heavily loaded Airbus hit the ground.

Shell-shocked mothers ran from houses, clutching crying children. Sirens wailed and firemen and rescue workers frantically combed burning rubble for survivors, as the air filled with the acrid smell of jet fuel.

Daniel Buckley, a sandy-haired seven-year-old who lives three blocks from the crash site, was finishing a picture he was drawing of the World Trade Center when he saw the plane go down outside his window. "I was writing 'Gone but not forgotten'," he said. "But I didn't have time to write 'forgotten'."

Like a lot of people near the impact zone, he ran for his life. The crash killed all 251 aboard the plane but, given the ferocity of impact, casualties on the ground seemed remarkably light. As many as nine were unaccounted for, and about 35 people were treated at nearby hospitals, most of them for smoke inhalation.

But emotionally shattered people, still coping with Sept. 11, were everywhere.

"The houses were shaking. I thought I was going to die," says Frances Samon, a 29-year-old mother of three who, hearing the roaring plane struggling overhead, grabbed her kids and dog and started running. Ms. Samon says she was already on antianxiety medication as a result of World Trade Center attack.

The Belle Harbor section of Rockaway is a cluster of mostly modest single-family homes with neat front lawns and side-by-side back yards in the center of the Rockaway Peninsula, a narrow 11-mile spit of sand that extends into Jamaica Bay from the Nassau County border on Long Island. Belle Harbor is in Queens -- New York City's most ethnically diverse borough -- but Belle Harbor is not of Queens. A beach-front time-capsule for unassuming middle-class families, mostly Irish and Jewish, it had changed hardly at all in 50 years.

Sept. 11, however, brought deep emotional wounds: Over 50 families lost relatives, residents say, people who either worked in the World Trade Center or were members of the emergency services.

Monday, the wounds were physical. The Airbus 300 slammed down in a roar of flame and chaos near the corner of 131st Street and Newport Avenue, engulfing houses and narrowly sparing a neighborhood landmark, the Harbor Light, a bar that has stood in the same place for decades. Its owner, Bernie Heeran, is a former firefighter whose son Charlie worked for the bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald and died in the World Trade Center attacks. Another employee of the bar, residents said, was a fireman who was also killed on Sept. 11.

One block south, on 129th St., closer to the beach, is St. Francis de Sales, the orange-brick church at the center of Roman Catholic life in the neighborhood -- and where many of the World Trade Center funerals have been held.

Just east of 130th Street, on a one-block stretch of 129th St., is a commercial street that keeps its offseason feel in the middle of summer. It's the kind of street where men sit out in on the sidewalk on folding beach chairs, not saying much. There's a bakery, a grocery, a pizza place, a drug store, a bar, a candy store, and a new Chinese take-out called "East Meets West." There is a gas station, too.

Monday, a flaming Airbus engine landed near its gas pumps.

Marilyn Kramberg, a real-estate broker, was in her home five short blocks from 129th St. when it happened.

"There was a tremendous amount of noise," she said. "I said, 'Oops, there goes the Concorde again.' " My husband started yelling, 'There's a plane going down!" We didn't hear a crash. But then smoke started rising, great billows of smoke. There were a lot of people on the street -- which is unusual."

"I saw the plane go down," Harold Kramberg said. "It was already in flames. It went nose down."

"This community was very badly hit by the World Trade Center thing," said his wife. "I knew most of the families, even if I didn't know the young men who were killed. They had funerals every day at St. Francis. They're still having them. It was just an awful, awful, awful thing. There have been plane accidents over the years -- one crashed into the bay a few years ago. It's not always terrorists. But we'll find out -- I guess."

A Rich History

In the 19th century, Rockaway was a posh summer resort for New York's wealthy, akin to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. The rich lived in mansions on the beach. A ferry from Brooklyn was their only way across Jamaica bay until a railroad trestle was built in the 1870s. But by the turn of the century, the rich were already heading out to the Hamptons on Long Island. Rockaway became a summer refuge for the sweltering working class. The mansions were broken up into rooming houses. Colonies of matchbox bungalows crowded in.

Shortly after World War II, fire destroyed the train trestle. The Long Island Railroad abandoned it and the New York subway took over. The travel time to Manhattan was tripled. Rockaway's heyday was over. By the 1960s, most of the mansions and bungalows fell to urban renewal. Long stretches of beachfront were left fallow, and are still fallow today. No development scheme could overcome the billions it would cost to build a high-speed rail link to the beach.

Before the war, there was a golf course called Idlewild in the marshes across the bay. It became an airport in 1942, and by the 1960s, when it was renamed for John F. Kennedy, it was a very big airport. Jet planes screaming overhead on summer nights brought lulls to front-porch conversations. It didn't help real-estate values.

Rockaway, so the joke went, became "the last resort," a repository for the harmless homeless who continue to live in a few broken-down single-room-occupancy hotels. Woody Allen used its quirkily tawdry streets in his movie, "Radio Days." The Ramones wrote a song about it. When Rockaway gets a mention in New York nostalgia writing, it is often called a "mythic" place.

But Belle Harbor, the 25-block stretch of where Monday's crash took place, was spared from decline. With help from some powerful New York politicians who still summered there -- including former Mayor Abraham Beame -- zoning rules have limited development to single-family houses. The population in its ZIP code is frozen at about 20,000. In summer, parking is banned on weekends. Except for the areas near the subway stop and in Jacob Riis Park at the peninsula's West End, access to the beach is difficult for anyone who doesn't know someone with a driveway. In its way, this part of Rockaway, at least, is as exclusive as ever.

As the cost of vacations goes up, an occasional adventurer will rent one of Rockaway's few remaining bungalows for the summer. In the weeks since Sept. 11, articles have appeared in the local press suggesting that Rockaway might come into its own again. A family home sells for under $400,000. By car, Wall Street is 40-minutes away. It was, some began to believe, a modest refuge from the uncertainties of big-city life.

Now, like the witnesses to the World Trade Center attacks, Rockaway residents, used to their perch five miles from Kennedy Airport, have acquired indelible memories of an awful event. Eyewitnesses, many of them mothers and children home from school because of the holiday, said they could tell by the sound that the jet was in trouble. They heard the Airbus overhead, its engines turning on and off and the plane dipping and rising as it struggled over Jamaica Bay. One engine fell off the right side of the plane. Then the tail of the jet blew up, flames streaming from its belly.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," said Katherine Lauth, a nurses assistant from the Rockaways, who was heading back to her home to check on her 20-year-old son. "I just started jumping up and down screaming."

"I'm cold from top to bottom," adds Paula Berndt, the owner of the Harbor Bake Shop on nearby Beach 116th Street. Ms. Berndt said she was just beginning her holiday baking, which includes making 2000 pies for Thanksgiving. But as the smoke and sirens drifted around her bake shop, Ms. Berndt said she would probably cut back the number, as the neighborhood entered another round of mourning. "It's so unpredictable. We don't know anything anymore."

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