Union Square Park
The Daily Plant : Tuesday, September 25, 2001
YANKEE STADIUM HOSTS "A PRAYER FOR AMERICA"
Yankee Stadium, a New York landmark that has symbolized victory for the last four years, and indeed for generations, hosted New York City’s official prayer service on Sunday, September 23 for everyone affected by the World Trade Center disaster. The stadium was called on to be the altar and meeting place where New Yorkers found comfort in their loss and turned their thoughts and energies to the future.
New Yorkers sat elbow to elbow in the bleachers eating the traditional Yankee fare of hot dogs and soda, but instead of pennant flags they waved American flags. Cries of "Ice cold beer here!" were replaced with shouts of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" And not one, but dozens of anthems and patriotic tunes were sung, including the popular God Bless the U.S.A. The baseball diamond itself had been dressed for a prayer service. Homeplate was a bed of flowers and the outfield was a stage. The pitcher’s mound was planted with flowers in a formation of stars and stripes.
The afternoon wove popular, national, and religious imagery together. At the door, guests received free stuffed animals affixed with notes and crayoned drawings from children across the country. Thus it was that uniformed officers, grieving family members, and dignitaries from the United Nations entered the stadium with stuffed bears, rabbits, and ducks under their arms. The image of stars and stripes was re-iterated on t-shirts, bandanas, and handheld flags distributed at the door. The service included the singing of Muslim prayer and the sounding of a shofar. The ringing of a school bell called the audience to attention as talk show host Oprah Winfrey invited dozens of celebrated government, religious, and entertainment leaders to the podium. Audience members took their seats with roses and tissues from the Red Cross in hand.
Governor George (Hudson) Pataki urged New Yorkers to consider how proud the deceased would be of the city’s efforts to restore and rebuild. Mayor Rudy (Eagle) Giuliani spoke of the miracle of St. Paul’s Church being saved from harm. Located in lower Manhattan, the church holds the country’s oldest American seal and was visited by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, and Hindu religious leaders offered their thoughts and read from sacred texts. Their words were punctuated by musical performances. Opera star Placido Domingo sang Ave Maria, Mayor Giuliani’s favorite hymn. Bette (The Rose) Midler led the crowd in You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings. Popstar Marc Antony performed America the Beautiful.
As the Columbia Society Orchestra of the NYPD played Amazing Grace, the whole crowd hummed to the tune. When the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem performed We Shall Overcome, New Yorkers took hands. The afternoon was full of expressions of warmth. Mayor Giuliani, for example, hugged every speaker at the conclusion of their remarks. At the end of the interfaith service, strangers in the audience parted as friendly acquaintances.
Parks assisted in the prayer service in a variety of ways. Not only is Yankee Stadium a Parks concession, the event ushers and consultants were from the Urban Park Service, Bronx Operations, and several other offices. Following Mayor Giuliani’s for a return to routine, homeplate, the outfield, and pitcher’s mound will be restored in time for the New York Yankees to play at home tonight.
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO IN THE PLANT
(Tuesday, September 27, 1988)
MARCH TO CELEBRATE GANDHI BIRTHDAY
Ideas can be potent weapons, stronger than a swarm of soldiers or a roomful of rifles. On Sunday, hundreds of marchers will commemorate the 119th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the great men of the 20th century and the father of nonviolent resistance. Beginning at 10:30 a.m., marchers will wind their way from the United Nations downtown for a ceremony in Union Square Park, where the statue of the Indian leader stands.
At Noon, when marchers arrive at the southwest corner of the 3.6-acre park at Union Square Park West and East 14th Street, they will be greeted by Mayor Koch, Commissioner Stern, Indian Foreign Minister Narashimha Rao, Indian Ambassador P.K. Paul and Consul General P. Alan Nazareth. The Russel Tubbs Instrumental Ensemble will play Indian-flavored jazz and the dignitaries will put a garland of flowers picked from city parks around the neck of the Gandhi statue.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you,
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth."
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
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