NEW YORK The city once again saluted its rescue workers yesterday, grateful to the hundreds of firefighters, police officers and other emergency forces who sped to the Queens neighborhood where the burning debris of Flight 587 rained havoc.
“The fire was raging when I got there, but it was put out in an unbelievably short time,” said Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. “But for their efforts, our casualties would be far worse, and we are once again in the debt of our firefighters, our police officers and our Port Authority police.”
More than 500 firefighters and emergency medical technician units rushed to the crash scene, home to many police and firemen who responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Engine and ladder companies came from all of the city’s five boroughs, according to the fire department.
“We were all over the place, and they were going through back yards in a 10-block area looking for people who were injured or parts from the plane,” said Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. There were several fires raging simultaneously.
Throughout the night, recovery crews continued to search the debris strewn over the Belle Harbor community. Clothes, suitcases and other remnants of the wreckage littered back yards and hung from scorched trees. The crash destroyed or damaged about a dozen houses.
There were no survivors from the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic-bound American Airlines Airbus that broke apart over Queens just seconds after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Six persons on the ground are still missing. Ninety percent of the 260 passengers and crew were of Dominican descent.
For the second consecutive night, community leaders in the largely Dominican Washington Heights section of Manhattan held a candlelight vigil. At a Monday night vigil, the mourners included Mr. Giuliani, Mayor-elect Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki.
“Our community is completely devastated,” said Manhattan City Council member Guillermo Linares. “There is no way to comprehend it.”
Community leader Fernando Mateo made a plea for donations, saying that many of the deceased were supporting families in the Dominican Republic as well as in the United States.
One young lady said her cousin, a student, was on the doomed airliner because her mother, fearing for her safety in New York after the terrorist attacks, wanted her to return home.
Mr. Bloomberg yesterday said, “This is still a great safe city and America is still the place you want to live. We have to deal with adversity.”
Crisis centers were set up at the four public schools in the Far Rockaways area, where attendance was reported to be about 60 percent. P.S. 42, also known as the Belle Harbor School, was closed Monday for Veterans Day, but it reopened yesterday.
Children enrolled at the Roman Catholic St. Francis de Sales school, a block from the impact site, did not attend classes today because law enforcement agencies were using the building as a command center. Children played stickball in the street.
In the midst of the tragedy’s aftermath, the city’s business continued.
Mr. Bloomberg yesterday appointed as his new police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who held the same post during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
“I can tell you my memory of September 11 has given me more resolve than I’ve ever had,” said Mr. Kelly, a 31-year police veteran.
A native New Yorker, lawyer and former Marine, Mr. Kelly currently serves as head of global security for Bear Stearns. He is a Democrat, but endorsed Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, and served as his campaign adviser on public-safety issues.