- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Yesterday morning, New Yorkers still reeling from September 11 were visited with another shocking tragedy when American Airlines flight 587 crashed into a middle-class neighborhood of Queens shortly after taking off from Kennedy International Airport.
Two-hundred sixty-four persons aboard the airplane and a still unknown number of residents of the Rockaways neighborhood almost certainly perished in what preliminary indications suggest was an awful accident. An anonymous senior official within the administration said that this did not appear to be a terrorist attack, while anonymous officials at the Pentagon reported that this tragedy seems to have no military implications. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was more circumspect, telling reporters, "I want to be very cautious about any conclusions at this early time about what is the cause of this … We have not ruled anything in, not ruled anything out."
To that end, it is appropriate that the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is taking the lead in the investigation. Piecing together all the details of what happened will be an exacting task, and determining the exact cause of the crash may well take some time, especially in the absence of a message from a terrorist organization.
Still, the investigation appears to be proceeding at an appropriate, if not astonishing pace. Rescue workers were quickly on the scene, the fires caused by the crash were put out quickly and the flight data recorder was found within a few hours. Almost as importantly, the public was supplied with plenty of information, most of which was delivered with cautionary caveats. Even before the recorder was found, reporters had been briefed by spokesmen from the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), American Airlines and the White House. Of course, reporters also received an early briefing from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In the long term, federal measures may be appropriate if it turns out that foul play was indeed involved. The rush to investigate, however, should not be translated into a call to legislate.
What is horribly clear is that the families of those on the plane have been touched by the unexpected loss of a loved one. Another New York neighborhood has been devastated, one whose residents were still in mourning for their loss of at least 70 neighbors on September 11.
Yet, it is also clear that the residents of Rockaways will recover and rebuild. Many of them rushed to help put out the fire, and many more will help neighbors suddenly without a home. As Rockaways resident Marie Rudolph said: "We'll get by. We're down, we're not out."
That resilient response shouldn't be surprising. After all, the residents of Rockaways are New Yorkers and even more, they're Americans.


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