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I stumbled upon this place, when I was for some reason, inspired to find architecture wallpapers. One of the architecture pieces was the TWA terminal at JFK. That building is to be turned into a hotel, to replace a previously closed one called the Ramada Plaza JFK, otherwise known as the “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Intrigued, I ended up looking up some information about the name. It’s quite horrifying and at the same time, fascinating.

On July 17th, 1996, Trans World Airlines Flight 800 exploded off the coast of Long Island, killing 230 people. Soon after the crash, hundreds of relatives and the media began to gather at the hotel. The hotel’s ballroom became a daily information spot, with instructions on what families should do once a body was recovered. A children’s playroom was set up, as well as a DNA and information center to help identify bodies.



From then on until its closing, the hotel had a red telephone connected to JFK airport, in case of a crash, and the need to set up an information center. It would not be long. On September 2nd, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 suffered an in-flight fire, and crashed into the ocean off Nova Scotia. This time around, due to the number of international passengers, translators and the Red Cross became involved.

Again, for a third time, tragedy struck. On October 31st, 1999 Egyptair Flight 990, due to pilot suicide, crashed into the ocean off of Nantucket, killing 217. And yet again, the hotel became a place of grieving. Family members were told to bring dental records, as well as photos of the victim smiling. This time around, the hotel had learned lessons from TWA 800. The police were called to barricade the hotel off from news media, a prayer room was set up, and the playroom set up again.


The final time the hotel was used (if you want to believe it) was on November 12, 2001, after the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, in which 265 people died. The staff brought in 200 extra people, stocked all the rooms with tissues, stuffed animals, and because 90% of the passengers were Dominican, Spanish language interpreters, counselors, priests, and all the meals prepared Dominican style.


If anything. I don’t think enough appreciation can be given to the staffers who worked at this hotel, especially during those troubled 5 years. The fact that they had to be prepared for the worst to happen, perform their duties, provide a helping hand and be counselors at once, is superhuman. It’s a shame that their story isn’t well-known.

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