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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 02:28 GMT
Rockaway: Twice stricken
A woman is comforted by a rescue worker in Rockaway
Rockaway lost at least 70 people in the WTC attacks
By BBC News Online's Megan Lane at the crash scene

When a plane fell out of the clear blue sky on 12 November it crashed onto a community already mourning many dead from the terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

American Airlines flight 587 and one of its engines crashed to earth on the Rockaway area of Queens, New York - an area which lost at least 70 people in the terror attacks two months and one day ago.


Last time, on 11 September, we had a bird's eye view of the twin towers, this time it's just a block away

Zalmon Lipschutz
For this is a community of firefighters, police officers and office workers who made the long commute into Wall Street.

The plane itself landed on a busy shopping street where residents off work for the Veterans Day holiday go to buy their bagels and newspapers for breakfast.

In addition to the passengers and crew lost on the flight, at least six Rockaway residents are missing feared dead, including the elderly neighbours of Mark Shorr.

The flaming plane torched the couple's house and scorched the back of Mr Shorr's own home.

"They were the sweetest couple. We lived next to each other for 20 years, I never knew their names."

The crash came just as New Yorkers seemed almost ready to breathe a sigh of relief after the 11 September attacks.

Many I spoke to feared that because of the holiday, more families would have been at home, or in the shops, rather than at work or school as on a normal working day.

Amid the carnage, there was one small stroke of good fortune. The plane's huge engine had landed on a petrol station forecourt just a few blocks away, narrowly missing a fuel tanker parked on the street outside.

It came to rest just 1.5 metres (five feet) from the pumps.

The 84-year-old mother of the station owner, who usually keeps an eye on business in the forecourt, had taken the day off.

Smell of burning

Bits of wreckage, some no more than 30 centimetres long, lie scattered in the street, and in the gardens of the modest two-storey houses.

One of the plane's engines
The engine landed on a petrol station's forecourt
Wherever there are yellow police tapes, there is a small part of the plane which came down so soon after takeoff from JFK airport.

From where I stood about two blocks away from the main crash site, a smell of burning and jet fuel hangs heavy in the air.

Andrew Lock, a 17-year-old student at the local Jewish school, saw both the plane and the engine plummet to earth.

"I saw them spiralling down. The plane was very, very low. I was just two blocks away - and I started running in the opposite direction."

Looking stunned, he is led away by classmates. Across the street, others at his school dish out hot soup to fire crews and police officers rushing to the scene.

'Just a block away'

The last time the city's emergency workers were put on such a high level of alert was on 11 September when the twin towers came down, killing more than 4,000 people.

Many residents agreed that their first thought was that it was Concorde's boom that they heard, for this is a community right in JFK's flight path.

Martha Militano, who lived four houses from where the plane came down, has lost her phone lines and electricity.


I just thought 'Not again, I can't believe this has happened again'

Martha Militano
"At first I thought it was Concorde, it just got louder and louder and louder, the whole house shook," she said.

"I just thought 'Not again, I can't believe this has happened again'. We've got to say our prayers tonight."

In this close knit community, dozens of people wander the streets trying to find out if friends and neighbours are safe.

Pat Diffendaly summed up the mood of many who stood stunned on street corners. "Please God, let this have been an accident."

Should this turn out to be indeed an accident, it is by sheer fluke that the plane crashed here, a long narrow piece of land just four blocks wide.

It is bordered on one side by the bay across to Manhattan, and on the other by the Atlantic.

A teacher at the Jewish school, Zalmon Lipschutz, reflected: "Last time, on 11 September, we had a bird's eye view of the twin towers, this time it's just a block away."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Williams
speaks to residents in the Rockaway Beach residential area
Liz Sulik, president, local Chamber of Commerce
"We have lived under the flight pattern of Kennedy Airport for so many years"

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