Two New York neighborhoods grieve together during prayer service for plane crash victims

Monday, November 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two communities that had little contact before the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 were united by a prayer service near where the Dominican Republic-bound airliner went down.

Washington Heights is home to the largest Dominican community outside the Dominican Republic. Belle Harbor, the crash site about 13 miles away, is largely Irish, Italian and Jewish. Mourners from both communities gathered Sunday to grieve for the victims of the Nov. 12 crash.

``What binds us together today ... are the tears, a river of tears day and night,'' said Rabbi Michael Miller, vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. ``We shed rivers of tears for brothers and sisters, friends and lovers, whose companionship has been torn away so suddenly.''

The neighborhoods share the A subway line and an immigrant work ethic, and many residents of both places are Roman Catholic.

Each community lost dozens of people in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and was suffering before Flight 587 crashed soon after takeoff from Kennedy Airport.

The Rockaways, home to generations of firefighters as well as bond traders from Cantor Fitzgerald and other trade center firms, were especially hard hit, losing more than 70 residents.

``Oh, Lord, we come before you with open hearts, with broken hearts,'' said the Rev. Ruben Diaz, who gave the invocation after the singing of the Dominican and U.S. national anthems.

The interfaith service took place at Jacob Riis Park, about 2 miles from the crash site. Mourners included Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

About 1,000 people sat on folding chairs facing the beach and a flower-lined stage. Planes taking off from Kennedy droned eerily low in the sky _ the path of the doomed flight.

Adriana Objio, a St. John's University student who lost her father, Sigfrido Objio, a former Dominican ambassador to the United Nations, said she was especially moved when tenor Ronan Tynan sang ``Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears,'' a song about Irish immigrants at Ellis Island.

``I thought of the Dominican Republic and my father, and that we won't ever see him again,'' she said.

Glancing at the Dominican and U.S. flags flapping in the breeze, Objio's widow, Carmen Objio, said, ``My husband always said, 'When I die, I want two flags flying together.'''