NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Dozens of people gathered Sunday for the anniversary of a New York City tragedy.
As CBS2’s Reena Roy reported, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke as New Yorkers remembered the 265 people who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into homes in Belle Harbor, Queens exactly 16 years ago Sunday.
One by one on Sunday, the victims’ names were read between tears.
“It’s hard – real hard,” said Tito Bautista. “Great man, humble guy — he worked hard for everything in his life.”
Bautista was remembering his father, as others honored their brothers, mothers, and sisters – among others. They clutched photos tight and placed flowers at the memorial.
Years go by, but Nov. 12 never gets any easier.
“Every time we come here, it’s like remembering the first day — and we come here and I come here with the hopes that I’m actually going to see her; like I’m going to meet he rhere, and my nephew,” said Karen Tavarez, “but they’re not here.”
Some of the little ones never even got to a chance to meet the people they lost.
“I feel like I got my looks from him and my mom she tells me stories about her, and I wish she was here right now,” said Sydney Lora.
The plane bound for the Dominican Republic didn’t make it far after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The aircraft quickly encountered turbulence, which caused it to slam into a row of homes on Beach 131st Street and Newport Avenue.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane’s rudder system and the airline’s pilot training program contributed to the second-deadliest aviation incident in the state.
The crash killed five on the ground and 260 on the aircraft.
“My sister — she came crawling and screaming into the house and woke us up — and that’s how we found out,” Tavares said.
“My son is 10, he loves planes,” Noel Rosa Scagga told CBS2. “So did my dad, and he took his first flight lesson. I think my dad would have loved to be there for that.”
Many of the families shared similar thoughts of what could have been — a common grief linking strangers and creating a sense of comfort.
“I think ‘It’s been so long, why are we doing this?’, and then we come here and remember and get to sit with the other families that lost someone. So it’s important,” Scagga said.
De Blasio spoke to the grieving families before paying tribute.
“It’s been 16 full years, but when I talk to so many of you over the years, it’s quite clear how fresh and how sharp the pain still is,” the mayor said. “We continue to make sure that we will always remember.”
The victims have also been honored in other ways. Just last month, West 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights was renamed Flight 587 Way.