Zemser, 20, was the valedictorian of his high school class and a Naval Academy midshipman. The tight-knit Rockaway community praised his commitment to school and his work, where news of his tragic passing hit the community hard.
"I was greatly pained by last night’s train derailment, a pain that quickly intensified when I recognized one of the victims," said Councilman Donovan Richards.
Richards and Councilman Eric Ulrich both said that Zemser had served as an intern in their offices in the past.
“[Zemser] showed great commitment and initiative as an intern in our office, well before he dedicated his life to our country by joining the U.S. Naval Academy,” Ulrich said in a statement after news of his passing. He was a rising star that will be greatly missed by the Rockaway community.”
“Justin served as an inspiration to all our families in Rockaway and exemplified the very best our community has to offer,” added Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder. “Our families have faced such great hardship in recent years following Superstorm Sandy and it is through the service and leadership of young men and women like Justin that we managed to come together in our recovery.
In Brooklyn, family, friends and the entire school community mourned the loss of Griffith, 42, an educational leader on Thursday morning
“Derrick was a pillar in the community,” the college said in a statement. “He served the students of Medgar Evers and the greater community with passion and he will be sorely missed. He was a champion for the downtrodden and he encouraged students to pursue education with vigor.”
Griffith served as a high school principal for a number of years and founded the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High School.
Just last month, Griffith was granted a Doctorate of Philosophy in Urban Education by the City University of New York Graduate Center.
The crash, which resulted in the deaths of at least seven individuals and injured an estimated 200, has another tie-in to the Queens community. The train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, lived in Forest Hills.
Bostian has been quiet since the crash, only telling CNN that he has no recollection of what happened prior to the accident. It’s been widely reported the train heading to New York from Washington D.C. was traveling at approximately double the speed it was supposed to be.