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Flight 587 victims’ hopes, dreams recalled 16 years after crash

The annual ceremony honors the 265 people who died Nov. 12, 2001, in Belle Harbor in the Rockaways.

The American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Belle

The American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Belle Harbor, Queens was memorialized on Sunday. After 16 years, Jeffrey Rodriguez still mourns the loss of his mother, Dominga Matias. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Sixteen years after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a Queens neighborhood killing 265 people, mourners gathered at a beachside monument Sunday where some recalled passengers who had fulfilled their “American dream.”

“May their dreams and hopes be made real by their children, their siblings, their relatives and friends,” the Rev. Eric Cruz, a Catholic priest, told dozens of mourners gathered in the cold for the annual remembrance ceremony at the Flight 587 Memorial erected in the Rockaways neighborhood of Belle Harbor.

On Nov. 12, 2001 — just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor, a tight-knit community consisting largely of police officers and firefighters. The accident killed all 260 passengers and crew aboard the plane, which was en route from Kennedy Airport to the Dominican Republic, and killed five people on the ground.

Luis Antonio Pichardo, 53, a furniture store owner from Farmingdale — a husband, and father of four — died that day aboard the plane carrying mainly Dominican New Yorkers.

On Sunday, his youngest daughter Rosalyn Pichardo, of Farmingdale, who was 7 when her dad died, hugged a framed portrait of him close to her chest as she watched the ceremony where the names of those who died were read aloud.

Speaking after the ceremony, she lamented that some of her earliest memories of her father have faded over time, but said a daughter never forgets the feeling of her father’s love.

“He would tell me: ‘You’re going to do big things,’ ” said Pichardo, now 23 and a Farmingdale State College student studying neuroscience.

Pichardo said her father came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in his 20s, along with her mom, and toiled in a string of tough jobs with the goal of becoming a business owner. About three years before his death, he opened a furniture store in Brentwood.

“He lived the American dream,” Pichardo said of her father.

Joanne Huber Kispert, 67, of Queens Village, lost her father, Joseph H. Huber of Ridge, in the crash.

Joseph Huber, a Navy veteran, and his wife, Frances Geraldine Huber, were headed to Santo Domingo on vacation with their longtime travel buddies Melvin and Elaine Landsman of the Bronx, Kispert said.

“He was like my best friend,” Kispert said of her father.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who came under fire in 2014 for arriving late at the annual ceremony, arrived on time Sunday, shaking hands and sharing hugs with those on hand.

In a speech to those on hand, de Blasio said while some might still feel “lonely” from the loss of their loved ones, “the city of New York is here with you today, tomorrow and always.”

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