NEW YORK -- Janet Barasso ran blindly through thick, black smoke with her two sons Monday and feared the worst after an American Airlines jetliner crashed just a block from her home.
''I thought we were being bombed, because I didn't see the plane,'' said Barasso, weeping and wearing a surgical mask after she and her sons, ages 10 and 16, reached safety.
The beachfront Queens neighborhood of Rockaway Beach was plunged into chaos after the jet carrying 260 people crashed shortly after taking off from nearby Kennedy Airport.
There were no known survivors. Authorities also said several people on the ground were missing, providing fresh grief for a New York neighborhood that lost dozens of its own in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, 15 miles away.
Investigators said there was no immediate evidence of sabotage on Flight 587, which was on its way to the Dominican Republic. Police and federal agents went door to door, asking residents what they heard and saw and poked through yards looking for pieces of the plane.
Some witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw one of the jet's two engines fall off before the crash.
Kevin McKeon had just hugged his 5-year-old daughter, Shannon, and was leaving the kitchen when a piece of engine 20 feet wide and 10 feet long plunged through the room.
''The next thing we knew, the walls were blowing off,'' he said. The impact tossed him and his daughter into the back yard and his wife into the living room.
A wing section ended up in the basement while the engine piece ripped through the back of his three-story house and into the garage, which caught fire. The family survived, McKeon with charred dollars in his wallet.
The Rockaway Beach neighborhood is on a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay, which separates it from the airport. The crash snapped many people out of their holiday routine.
Retired firefighter Tom Lynch said he was walking on the beach when he saw an orange explosion on the plane, just before it plummeted into the middle-class neighborhood.
Two neighborhood schools -- empty because of the Veterans Day observance -- were turned into triage centers and Beach Street became a morgue. Firefighter Joe O'Brien said Monsignor Martin Geraghty walked up and down the street, blessing more than a dozen bodies that had been pulled from the wreckage.
It was unclear how many buildings caught fire after the crash; one witness said the fuselage may have damaged a dozen homes. Some residents spilled into the streets with fire extinguishers to battle the fires, and others grabbed garden hoses.
Displaced families were sent to an area hotel.
''People should remain calm,'' said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, handling another crisis in his stricken city. ''We're just being tested one more time and we're going to pass this test, too.''
Residents were doing laundry, watching television and walking dogs on the beach when they saw the plane fall from the sky.
Gardener Carmine Castellano was driving his truck toward a Texaco gas station when one of the plane's engines landed a few feet in front of him. A block away, he saw flames from the fuselage rising 200 feet into the air.
''I heard a loud crash and I thought it was a car accident, but it was too loud,'' Castellano said.
Off-duty firefighter Vincent Plover said about a dozen homes were on fire when he arrived around 9:45 a.m. Later, bleary eyed, he helped pick up small pieces of wreckage near the charred wall of a two-story home.
''There wasn't much left of the plane,'' Plover said.
Construction worker Antonio Villela was digging a hole with some co-workers a few blocks away when he heard an explosion.
''I saw flames come out from behind the plane,'' he said. ''A whole wing with the engine fell off.''
The plane nose-dived and crashed, sending flames and smoke pouring into the sky.
Dolores Ravanno said she saw construction workers screaming as they ran down the street to help. Other people hugged in the street.
''The black smoke just rushed down the block and all over,'' said Eileen Dolan, who was walking her dog when the jet hit. ''I panicked'' -- and ran home to get her children.
Said Gina Ramos, who lives two houses away from the crash: ''After Sept. 11, you don't know what to think. I thought it was bombs.''
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