November 13, 2001

Plane Crashes in Queens, Kills 260

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Frozen by the bitter cold and the harsh truth that 260 people died in another airline disaster in New York City yesterday, students gathering outside the Latino Living Center were reminded of a troubling reality.

“Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,” said Ricardo Morales, associate director for minority affairs.

Morales and about 50 students came together at the request of Quisqueya, the Dominican Students Organization, to remember those lost aboard American Airlines Flight 587 and the Queens residents missing since the plane crashed.

With red and white candles ablaze, those attending the vigil also reflected on family and friends in a world transformed by terrorism and a lost sense of security.

“This directly affects our community,” said Patricia Diaz ’03, co-chair of Quisqueya.

While some fought back tears, Diaz urged participants to share their thoughts and prayers with the group.

One student remembered his brother’s girlfriend, whose parents were on Flight 587. Another spoke for his father, who lost co-workers and friends yesterday, and yet others offered a message of hope for the many students who will soon be traveling by airplane to rejoin their own families.

“We have certainly lived through a lot of things together this semester. I hope we will all take a minute before this is over to remember our brothers and sisters who died this morning,” said Prof. Hector Velez, sociology.

Velez, the faculty advisor for Quisqueya, noted at the vigil how a trip to the Dominican Republic takes on special significance for anybody with family on the island.

“That is a flight that I have taken many times with students,” Velez said, remembering the applause that usually breaks out in the cabin of the plane when the Dominican travelers arrive home.

“I didn’t know any of the people on that plane, but I know their souls,” said Din Tolbert ’04 last night at the vigil.

Evoking the shared tragedies of Sept. 11, the emergence of anthrax in the U.S. and the war in Afghanistan, Tolbert called for each person to look beyond what divides people — especially racial and ethnic barriers.

“I think it is time for us to come together as a community,” Tolbert said.

In addition, Diaz issued a statement of censure toward the government, which she said must be held accountable for its role in preserving the public safety.

“These planes shouldn’t be flying,” she said.

Diaz expressed outrage at the thought that the plane crash may have been avoidable as well as sorrow for the added loss of security suffered yesterday.

“I sincerely believe that those who perished are in a better place,” she said.

Several speakers at the vigil alluded to the 1993 Day Hall takeover, around which Latino and other minority students rallied to build the community represented at the Latino Living Center [LLC] last night. LLC is running a week-long celebration to commemorate the campaign that led to the establishment of the living center.

“The importance of the LLC and the ability to have a space like this allows for moments like this,” said Herbert Cortez ’02, president of LAL (La Unidad Latina).

“[The vigil] brings out how special family is. For many people who come from New York City, this is home for them,” Cortez said.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch