A flight 587 widow and Sandy victim on life in the Rockaways
"I'm, like, done here," said Gerrie Pomponio this Sunday, in the Rockaways. "This is my second tragedy in Rockaway."
"My kids tell me that it's time to leave," she said.
Eleven years ago today, and just two months and a day after September 11, American Airlines Flight 587 took off from JFK Airport heading for the Dominican Republic.
Just a few minutes later, it crashed into the Rockaways neighborhood of Belle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers on board and five people on the ground.
One of those five people was Pomponio's husband, Franco, who was sleeping upstairs, when "parts of a doomed jet plane knifed him like a javelin, leaving Gerry a widow and son Mike, 21, and daughter Jennifer, 19, without a dad," according to a 2002 New York Post article.
At first, Pomponio thought her hairdryer had somehow caused an explosion.
Pomponio said the ensuing six or seven years were "a fog." But she stayed.
Recently, Pomponio remarried there.
During Hurricane Sandy, she ignored the mayor's calls to evacuate and stayed put on the beach block of 135th Street.
"I prayed that night that if I made it through, I would never do that again," said Pomponio. "And I listened to the news ... and it was terrible. It was terrible. I was crying."
On Sunday, Pomponio showed up to a town-hall style meeting in a parking lot bounded by Beach 94th and Beach 95th streets to listen to local elected officials, and representatives from the city and from the Long Island Power Authority, say their piece from the back of a black pick-up truck.
Behind them stood a hill of sand, and behind that, the boardwalk's empty moorings.
Pomponio, who wore a puffy black coat over a blue turtleneck, found out about the meeting from her iPhone.
She's fortunate enough to have a generator. And though her house sustained damage—her basement flooded up to the ceiling, her cars "are gone"—it's still standing.
Eighteen volunteers from Hillsong Church in Manhattan came by to help muck out the basement. Pomponio finds the number of volunteers meaningful, because she's Jewish and in Hebrew, "18 means life."
She's going to a reception at the church on the Nov. 18.
In the meantime, she's thinking about moving upstate.
"I don't want to be where planes can fly over us too close anymore" she said. "And I don't really think I want to be with water."