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Flight 990 Victims Mourned in N.Y.

November 1, 1999

WESTBURY, N.Y. (AP) _ The last time Dr. Talaat Abdalmoneim saw his parents, he and his wife, Gihan, bade them goodbye at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where they boarded EgyptAir Flight 990.

It was the second time Abdalmoneim had taken his parents to the airport Saturday night. At 9 p.m., Abdel-Rahman Amin and wife Alia Abdou arrived at the airport only to find out their flight had been delayed.

The foursome drove back to the younger couple’s home for coffee and tea, then back to the airport just in time to catch the flight that would crash into the sea shortly after taking off.

``I assumed they wouldn’t make it on the flight and would go another day, but they said ’no,‴ Mrs. Abdalmoneim said. The older couple had hoped to reach Cairo in time for the birth of their 11th grandchild.

On Sunday, Abdalmoneim was among those at the Islamic Center of Long Island mourning the loss of loved ones. The imam of the modern, green-domed mosque, Sheik Ahmed Deweidar, read from the Koran and recited a prayer for the dead.

Abdalmoneim, an intensive care doctor at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, wept uncontrollably through most of the prayer service.

``He’s usually very strong, but this is a difficult situation,″ said his wife.

It was an eerily familiar scene at the Ramada Plaza hotel near the Kennedy airport. The hotel was the gathering place for families of victims of 1996′s TWA Flight 800 and 1998′s Swiss Air Flight 111, and it once again played host to grieving families,

A woman walking into the hotel Sunday collapsed, crying onto the pavement. Two men rushed to help her up.

Inside, 20 to 30 relatives gathered, consoled by workers from the Red Cross, Muslim clerics and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

``It’s horrible in there. Everybody’s crying, everybody is in mourning,″ Mahmoud Hamza, who lost two friends on the flight, said as he fought back tears. ``This is so terrible, it could happen to anybody.″

``There were a lot of women crying,″ said Lateef Sadiq, a Muslim cleric from the Masjid Khalipha mosque in Brooklyn. ``One lady lost her mother and father.″

A number of families of Flight 990 victims spent Sunday night at the Ramada, and this afternoon some 100 relatives left for Providence, R.I., to be closer to the recovery effort. As they boarded a charted jet, some walked arm in arm or held hands. One woman, teary-eyed, held a bouquet of red flowers.

Mohammed Jemeaha, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, a large mosque in upper Manhattan, also came to the hotel ``to offer condolences to all the victims.″

He added: ``May the Almighty put them in paradise.″

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