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Belle Harbor Remembers Victims Of American Airlines Flight 587 Crash

Belle Harbor Resident: 'A Couple Of People Said The Neighborhood Might Be Cursed'
An investigator examines the wreckage of American Airlines flight 587 among destroyed houses November 13, 2001 in the Rockaway section of Queens. (credit: Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images)

An investigator examines the wreckage of American Airlines flight 587 among destroyed houses November 13, 2001 in the Rockaway section of Queens. (credit: Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Superstorm Sandy devastated the Queens neighborhood of Belle Harbor where the community was remembering another tragedy on Monday.

On Nov. 12, 2001, just two months after the 9/11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in the center of Belle Harbor. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport en route to the Dominican Republic.

All 260 people on board were killed, along with five people on the ground.

As residents deal with the loss of life and dozens of homes in the aftermath of Sandy, the tight-knit community is coming together to remember those lost in the crash 11 years ago.

Through an opening in the Flight 587 Memorial, the devastation left behind by Sandy is visible.

Patricia Mills was at the memorial to remember her sister Michelle who died in the crash, but her thoughts were also with those who live in Belle Harbor.

“What they’ve gone through, I know there aren’t words to describe it with their families and everything in disarray. It’s horrible,” Mills told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Flight 587 went down just behind Tom Cann’s house.

“You don’t find this type of tragedy happening twice in a lifetime, nonetheless twice in the neighborhood,” Cann told Aiello.

Now across the street from Cann’s house stands the remnants of one of more than a dozen homes charred by a fire whipped up by Sandy.

“A couple of people said the neighborhood might be cursed a little bit,” Cann said.

“I feel like we had this little perfect world here and we lost it,” Belle Harbor resident Kasia Wianecki told CBS 2’s Aiello.

But some residents and business owners said it is encouraging to see so many committed to the recovery and rebuilding effort.

Belle Harbor Chemist had close because of the four feet of water in the business but has since reopened in a trailer parked on the street.

“A lot of people come in. We get hugs, we get smiles, we get some tears too, but it’s great to see the people, it’s great to help out,” Rich Longo said.

Sandy forced Monday’s memorial service to be moved from Queens to the Bronx because of the extensive damage to Belle Harbor and the Rockaways caused by Sandy.

Family members and friends of the victims of Flight 587 honored their loved ones at a service at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

“The families felt they wanted to pray for their loved ones, but they also wanted to pray for the families suffering because of the storm,” Assemblyman Guillermo Linares said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked for prayers for the hurricane victims while remembering the crash victims.

“The pain of the tragedy can never be erased but as journey attests tragedy can also provide opportunity to come together,” Bloomberg said.

Ana Reyes said her family lost the life of the party when they lost her brother Roberto who was headed to the Dominican Republic to see his daughter.

“You just remember and tell stories, that’s the only way,” Reyes said. “He’s always with us.”

At the end of the ceremony, yellow and red roses were given out as they are in Queens each year.

No matter where the service is held, family members said the roses which signify love and friendship will always bring them peace and comfort.

The mayor placed two roses, one red and one white at the memorial in Belle Harbor.