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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Tragedy for New York's Dominicans

NEW YORK -- Several times a day the flights depart from Kennedy International Airport, providing a crucial link between the Dominican Republic and New York City's Dominican neighborhoods. The first flight out, American Airlines Flight 587 to Santo Domingo, is so familiar that some Dominicans talk about it as if it were the morning train. With holidays approaching, Flight 587 was packed.

Tito Baustita, 37, who worked in a factory by day and a bodega by night, was heading home to visit two sons. Angela de la Cruz, 38, who made the trip every few months, was returning with her father to sell a house. Ivelisse Taveras, 42, a Washington Heights hairdresser, left her two children with relatives to visit her husband. Felix Sanchez, a Merrill Lynch employee who worked in the World Trade Center but was lucky on Sept. 11, was on his way to visit family in Santo Domingo.

But at 9:17 a.m., the link home was severed in horrifying fashion. Dominicans in two distant cities, joined by culture, family and commerce, suddenly had grief to share, too.

In Santo Domingo, hundreds of people packed the Las Americas International Airport, normally the setting for joyful reunions. Some relatives collapsed, hands shaking uncontrollably. Others wept, inconsolable.

Officials said that 260 people were on Flight 587, and by some early estimates, 150 to 175 of the passengers were thought to be Dominicans. "Dominicans who live in New York do not in any way sever their ties with the Dominican Republic," said Kirk Bullington, a Baptist missionary on hand to console families. "They are as much part of Dominican life as if they lived here."

Throughout the day, in frantic telephone calls and e-mail messages, friends and relatives separated by an ocean tried to learn whether loved ones had been on the flight. With some telephone lines jammed, it took several hours for government officials in Santo Domingo to finally contact the consulate in New York. There were initial fears that high-ranking officials might have been on the flight, returning from the United Nations General Assembly. But by late afternoon, most had been located.

Freddy Beras Boyco, a Dominican television personality, said he had confirmation that Papi La Fontaine, a show business impresario who lived in New York, and Norma Guzman Valoy, the daughter of a famous singer, were on the doomed flight. Ms. Valoy was traveling home with her three children.

In the weeks since Sept. 11, there have been reports of parents taking their children out of school in New York and sending them back to the Dominican Republic, where they felt safer.

Bullington said he spoke with the brother of one passenger who had just recently decided to leave New York for good. "The guy said to me that his brother had not been back in three years, but that he was making this trip to buy land to move his family back to the Dominican Republic because of what had happened on Sept. 11,'' Bullington said. "He perished most likely, along with his baby son who was with him.''