Sunday, November 13, 2005
American Airlines Flight #587
On Monday, November 12, 2001, I was in a car on my way to work in New Jersey. It was 2 months after September 11, and I had worked in a building across the street from the Staten Island Ferry. Everything was still a blur in lower Manhattan and I had to take a car service to New Jersey to the printing plant to ensure that the trade paper I worked for was able to go to press everyday. There was still major problems with the phone lines, computer systems and the like in downtown Manhattan. Honestly, I was glad to not have to go downtown. I used to go the World Trade Center several times a week. And I just could not bring myself to go to the site and see the destruction.
On this morning the driver who picked me up every morning (whose name now escapes me) had the radio on to 1010Wins, the all news station in NYC. On the radio came the news that American Airlines Flight #587 had crashed shortly after take-0ff. I sat there stunned. I, like most people, thought it was another terroist attack. Also, I was to be on Flight #587 that coming Saturday, for my annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic.
There was a group of friends that were going down with me. Everyone was spooked. Once they ruled out that it was a terroist attack, I felt much better. But, convincing my friends was another matter. I was ready to get out of NYC for awhile, and what better place to go than my beloved Dominican Republic? I felt that if the pilots, flight attendants and others would fly, I would be right there with them. Also, you usually didn't hear about planes on the same route crashing twice in the same week. Finally, I thought, when it is your time to do, you're going. There were people sitting in their kitchen having coffee when the plane fell out of the sky and landed on their house and killed them.
I will never forget the flight that Saturday as long as I live. Usually, early morning flights from NYC to the DR are very lively affairs. People are loud, babies crying, some folks drinking rum, and others in just a festive mood. This flight was different. It was very quiet and eery. The captain greeted everyone personally as they boarded the plane. He came over the loud speaker and let everyone know how sorry he was about the crash, but assured everyone that this plane had been checked and re-checked and that we would have a safe, smooth flight. As we pulled from the gate, there was not a sound, no babies crying, no one talking, nada. As the plane took off I held my breath and after a couple of minutes I began to feel much better. Flight #587 had crashed after a couple of minutes after take-off, and so I thought everything would be alright.
The plane ride was smooth, again everyone was pensive and as we descended from the clouds and saw Santo Domingo people started clapping. I had witnessed the phenomena of clapping when the plane landed, which is very common in the Caribbean. It used to drive me insane. I thought let's wait til the damn plane comes to a stop, you all are clapping when the tires hit the runway. I mean, we could still crash. This day I didn't care. I cheered and yelled with everyone else when those tires hit the runway and felt like I was truly back "home." I even took a stiff drink of rum from the Dominican gentleman sitting next to me, who kept offering it to me the whole flight. I was ready.
That trip was one of the best I had here.
Flight #587 was the second worst plane crash in American aviation history. After we got off the plane I could see the impact to the people of the Dominican Republic. There were a lot of tears and crying when people met at the airport. It was very, very sad.
The impact on the lives of those left behind is still felt today. I just wanted to take the time to remember those who perished on that awful day, Monday, November 12, 2001.
Rest in peace.