Tuesday, November 13, 2001

NEW YORK The city awoke to the now familiar signs of calamity yesterday as a tower of black smoke surged into the sky and the piercing wail of ambulances and rescue vehicles echoed through the streets. Another terror attack was the first thought on everyone’s mind.
“I thought ‘Oh my God,’” said Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani as he once more sought to guide a city in crisis just two months and one day after the collapse of the World Trade Center. As he spoke, houses were ablaze in the borough of Queens where an American Airline Airbus crashed minutes after takeoff. The mayor announced the city was on high alert. Airports were closed; bridges and tunnels were closed, too, but reopened by noon as the recovery got under way.
The sight of hundreds of firefighters, police and emergency units speeding to a neighborhood in flames aroused a sickening feeling of dread throughout New York. But nowhere was the recognition more keen than at the crash site in the Rockaway area of Queens, where families are still mourning the loss of relatives and friends many of them firefighters and rescue workers in the World Trade Center disaster.
“If September 11 was an earthquake, this is a dramatic aftershock,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from the Brooklyn-Queens area, as he stood near the crash scene.
More than 30 men, including some firefighters still reported missing in the Trade Center attack, were members of the local St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Parish. It is a closely knit area where just about everyone knows everybody else. Since September 11, Masses for the dead and funerals have been celebrated here almost on a daily basis.
“The human damage here has already been breathtaking,” said Mr. Weiner.
The emergency response forces were swift and thorough. Civilian volunteers, many of them retired or off-duty police and firefighters living in this waterfront neighborhood just five miles from Manhattan, sped to the scene to assist in the rescue, some helping firefighters to lay the hoses. Within minutes of the crash, firefighters were reported to be helping residents evacuate their houses near the scene.
Officials determined four main debris sites. Part of the tail was visible in Jamaica Bay. An engine landed near a gas station in Bell Harbor,a dense residential area bordering John F. Kennedy International Airport and Rockaway Beach in southeastern Queens. A large part of the fuselage also fell to the ground in Bell Harbor. And there were pieces of the plane all over Rockaway Beach.
As was the case in the Trade Center aftermath, local hospitals stood ready to handle the wounded, but they turned out to be few. About 30 people injured on the ground, mostly rescue workers, were treated for smoke inhalation and bruises. No survivors were reported from the jetliner’s 260 persons on board. Firefighters were expected to be fighting the flames throughout last night. They will continue to recover bodies from Flight 587 and search for fatalities in the houses at the impact area.
At least four homes were destroyed. Many were without telephone service and some power lines were disabled. An odor of jet fuel permeated the surrounding streets. About 10 U.S. Coast Guard boats were in the water recovering debris. New York Police Department divers were planning to work overnight in the water searching for parts of the aircraft.
From eyewitness reports, it was not clear what happened to the jetliner. Some said they saw an explosion and one of the engines drop off, others said the plane plunged nose first to the ground intact, with both wings attached to the fuselage. Whatever the case, yesterday’s crash added to the economic and psychological burden weighing down so many New Yorkers since the death of nearly 5,000 people in the twin towers attack.
“The city has to keep going, moving forward,” said the mayor, adding that the sad day was just another test of New York’s fortitude.

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