Twenty-two years ago, on November 12, 2001, following the lingering trauma of the September 11th attacks, New Yorkers faced renewed terrorism fears as American Airlines Flight 587, en route from JFK airport to the Dominican Republic, crashed in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens. The crash claimed the lives of all 260 people on board (251 passengers and 9 crew), along with five on the ground. Contrary to initial concerns of terrorism, the NTSB investigation revealed that the crash resulted from wake turbulence from the preceding aircraft.
The FDNY swiftly responded to the crash report at 9:17 A.M. Initially, three engines and two ladders, led by the 47th Battalion, arrived at Box 1398 on Beach 131st Street and Newport Avenue. Engine 329 requested a full first alarm assignment upon arrival. Fires were evident on both sides of Beach 131st Street, prompting subsequent requests for second and third alarms. Reports of fires spanning multiple blocks and downed power lines flooded in.
A major emergency was declared with a 10-60 signal, mobilizing additional units, including Rescue 3 with the collapse unit, Hazardous Materials Unit, Hazmat Tech Unit, Squad Company 1 with the Technical Response Vehicle, Tactical Support Unit, Field Communications Unit, Safety Battalion, Special Operations Battalion, and the public information officer. A fifth alarm summoned a total of 20 engines, eight trucks, six battalion chiefs, and a deputy chief for the southern Queens area. Simultaneously, due to severe conditions, a third alarm was issued for a different location nearby at Box 1441 on Beach 131st Street, involving a fire at a gas station where one of the jet's engines had landed.
The aftermath saw widespread debris over a four-block-wide area, extending from Jamaica Bay to the north near JFK airport to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. A memorial honoring the victims was unveiled on November 12, 2006, with an annual ceremony held to remember those lost.