Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 Memorial Service in East Williamsburg

Here is a post from Richard Grayson's MySpace blog for Wednesday, September 12, 2007:
I write about last evening's 9/11 Memorial Service in East Williamsburg at Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn:
After spending hours watching General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testify before the Senate on Tuesday, I walk down Conselyea Street to Graham Avenue – the street sign here also says Via Vespucci – by the side of Ralph's Famous Ices, where a plaque honors the eleven East Williamsburg residents lost on 9/11.

By 7 p.m., eighty of us have tiny candles lit in plastic cups as a bagpiper plays "Amazing Grace." High-pitched drilling from a condo under construction a few feet away competes with the hymn until a cop goes over and temporarily halts gentrification as we sing the national anthem.

Father Tony says a prayer; we all recite the Knights of Columbus "prayer for peace" and the pledge of allegiance; two neighborhood firefighters place wreaths by the memorial as names are read; we sing "America the Beautiful." Tears come only when I notice two skinny hipsters remove their caps as they pass.

We begin our candlelight procession to church two blocks down. Most people here have lived in this neighborhood all their lives. At 56, I am one of the younger marchers.

Six years ago I was living in the small Ozarks town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I had no TV and my radio could get only Christian and country music stations; on one, a DJ mourned, "They were Yankees – but they were our Yankees."

But sitting in a back pew in a Brooklyn church, I find myself thinking not to that day but to another evening in church: March 2003 at St. Maurice's in Dania Beach, Florida. Father Roger had called for an interfaith prayer meeting on the eve of the Iraq war.

Everyone there was from Peace South Florida: our leader Myriam, a Colombian immigrant; an old Jewish couple from Century Village; two elderly Quebecois snowbirds; three high school students; and two others I'd seen at futile meetings and marches.

Father Roger distributed prayers from various religions he'd gotten online that afternoon. For the first time since a 1964 performance at Flatbush Park Jewish Center, I got to recite something in a house of worship. That night, through the luck of the draw, I asked for peace about ten times in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On this night, after church, I go home to find C-Span still on. A senator is asking a general if we are any safer now. I take the crumpled program out from my pocket and for the first time see tonight's memorial had a theme: "Looking Back, Looking Forward."

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