Beach and History: An Unlikely Coexistence

Beach 116 Street, Rockaway: Memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacksLively, sunny, exuberant Rockaway Beach, New York City, presents some surprise opportunities for reflection.

This little park honors the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The twisted metal in the foreground is from the wreckage of the World Trade Center and many of the red bricks on the walking path bear messages of remembrance. In the distance is the Manhattan skyline; the attacks were visible from this spot.

The Rockaways – especially the Breezy Point area – are home to a large number of police officers and firefighters, many of whom lost their lives in the line of duty on September 11th. This Independence Day weekend, American flags were waving on the residential streets and the shops featured their red, white and blue merchandise, perhaps to entice us to do some patriotic shopping.

Gazebo of the 9-1 memorial in RockaayThis beautiful gazebo provides shelter from the bright sun.

Afterwards I Only Want Peace at AA 587 memorial RockawayJust a few blocks away, on the boardwalk, is a curved stone wall honoring those who lost their lives when an American Airlines flight crashed in the Belle Harbor section of Rockaway. It was en  route to the Dominican Republic so the designers selected this inscription; it means “Afterwards, I only want peace” by the late Dominican poet Pedro Mir.

2001 was a heartbreaking year for aviation and for the Rockaway peninsula. I give credit to the residents and urban planners there for incorporating their sad history into the beauty and happiness that seem to define their area.  That people can swim, surf, ride bicycles, frolic and stroll right by these historic reminders is a testament to resiliency. These opposites blend seamlessly into the Rockaway experience.


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