Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani
A Ceremony of Appreciation
TWA Flight 800 Tragedy
October 26, 1996, 2:00 p.m.
City Hall Plaza

Honorees, families and friends of the victims, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to City Hall Plaza for a ceremony of appreciation, honoring the dedicated professionals and volunteers who helped in the aftermath of the crash of TWA Flight 800.

Flight 800 was, and is, a human tragedy of immense proportions. And the entire world has joined in prayer and support for the families and friends of the victims, during this time of pain and loss.

Over the months that followed, we all have tried to come to grips with the human side of this disaster, and to deal with the frustration, as the answers to the questions that surround the crash continue to elude us. But it seems that now it is appropriate to take a moment to recognize the heroic, courageous, and compassionate efforts of the federal, state, and local officials of the agencies and departments involved, of the private sector partners who lent their support., and of the hundreds of individuals who worked around-the-clock to ensure that everything humanly possible was being done.

At the peak of the salvage and recovery efforts there were at least 84 different organizations involved, and it was truly remarkable how effectively the operation was executed. The coordination and the professionalism was a case-study in effective emergency management -- and even as we continue to grieve for those gone, we can congratulate and commend the tremendous work of, what just may have been, the greatest emergency response team ever assembled.

To begin the ceremony, I would like to introduce Thomas Von Essen, Jr., who will sing our national anthem.

Now for the invocation, I would like to introduce Fire Department Chaplin, Father Michael Judge.

On the evening of July 17, when we first received reports of a plane crash off of the Long Island coast, I don't know that anybody actually realized the scope of the disaster that we would be confronting over the days, weeks and months that followed.

But by 10:00 o'clock that night, we were already beginning to get a pretty good understanding because there were already representatives from the New York City office of emergency management, the Police Department, and the Fire Department on the scene, lending assistance and assessing the situation. They joined Suffolk County and federal authorities, and immediately offered the full cooperation and support of New York City.

By dawn, two harbor launch units and a fire boat had arrived from New York City. These boats brought scuba divers from the NYPD and the FDNY, as well as emergency medical technicians, who had travelled through the night to reach the crash-site.

All in all, New York City contributed three harbor units, three helicopters, and more than 100 members of the NYPD and more than 100 members of the FDNY were assigned to the effort, including as many as 48 divers.

These divers worked tirelessly at depths that exceeded 100 feet in the freezing, murky waters of the Atlantic, recovering the victims, and recovering the clues that we hoped would bring a resolution to this disaster. They've toiled for months in the most demanding conditions imaginable, and in fact, there are still dedicated, courageous NYPD divers assisting in the continuing effort. They were, and are, on the front lines, but behind the scenes there have been so many who contributed, providing support for the families and the workers.

And today we salute that network of help that includes New York City agencies, state agencies, federal agencies, long island counties, foreign consulates, the not-for-profit sector, and private corporations.

These organizations all rose to the challenge. Together, we showed that the very worst of times can bring out the very best of humanity, as New Yorkers, Americans and the nations of the world rallied to share their strength.

In the weeks and months that followed the tragedy, I have often spoken about the people of the world uniting in a sense of shared loss and support. Today, we honor those who were the emissaries of that spirit. When the world reached out to help, yours were the hands and the arms. When the world sought to comfort, yours were the soothing voices and compassionate words. When the world sought to grieve, yours were the tears, the love and the open hearts.

Today, we salute you, all of you who gave so much in this most difficult of times.

Even as New York City grieves for those who are gone, we stand proudly behind all of you, honoring the job you did for all of us.

Thank you.

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