When American Flight 587 crashed in the Rockaway Peninsula on Monday it signaled a new ground zero for the city.
The close-knit communities of the Rockaways were hit for a second time in two months. It was 62 days after September 11th that the Rockaways lost loved ones following the World Trade Center terrorist attack.
At least 26 residents, many of them firefighters who lived in the Rockaways, died on September 11th.
Many other memorial services were held in the Rockaways for people who grew up there and moved away or whose families still live there.
The communities were still holding memorial masses for those lost when the plane struck on Monday morning.
Probably because of the September 11th attack and its close, sad connection with Rockaway, the news media from around the world besieged the Queens Chronicle with phone calls throughout Monday.
Most knew about Rockaway’s losses of September 11th. They wanted to know more about the neighborhood, its geographical location, relative to the rest of the city and Kennedy Airport and how residents were coping with the new tragedy.
One woman from Glasgow, Scotland, who had lived in the Rockaways for a couple of years and is returning to the United States next month, called to send her best regards to New Yorkers.
“I want people to know that over here we are praying for them and are with them,” she said. “Nothing will keep me from returing next month when I come to stay in New York. I love New York.”
Over 20 phone calls were received by Chronicle editors on Monday, most from different British Broadcasting Corporation television and radio news shows including ones from Ireland and Scotland.
Live interviews were also conducted for Channel 4 in London, Australia Radio, Canadian Broadcasting and Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Melbourne, Australia.
Digital photographs were requested by the London Daily Telegraph and the Irish Examiner called twice requesting information on Irish victims from the Rockaways.
Many of the interviewers wanted to know how we thought air traveling would be affected by Monday’s crash, especially with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
National Public Radio in this country wanted to speak to an eyewitness reporter.
Flattering though it was to be interviewed for international radio and TV, the staff wished there had been no crash to warrant such interest and the calls were time- consuming.
“The interest by other countries in covering the plane crash was certainly heightened by the September 11th attack,” said Kathleen Louis, assistant editor, who was on the scene, though at a distance, on Monday morning.
The fact that Rockaway suffered so many losses in September only to be faced by a catastrophe literally in their own backyard just two months later was a point mentioned over and over by interviewers.
So, whether Queens likes it or not, ground zero is now here, too. Let’s not forget these new victims, either on the plane or the ground.
The latest tragedy appears to have been caused by faulty equipment. And though we are relieved that it was not terrorist-inspired, the fact remains that close to 270 innocent people lost their lives.
Let’s also not forget the people who call Rockaway their home. Their lives have been even more transformed than have ours.
We hope there is never a need to get so many international phone calls again and that life, as it has evolved, will soon return to some sense of normalit