In a fast city, sad and slow remembrance
Several years ago a construction crane collapsed. I had forgotten about it. People died.
A homeless person crafted a memorial and many people contributed to its creation and effect.
With time, it slipped from view. I am mindful, maybe just for this moment, as I rediscovered this article.
Lesson 1, for me, is that life is short. Reiterated and re-instructed today.
Lesson 2, is to be mindful and recall, like a boyscout pocket knife, lesson 1.
The article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/nyregion/thecity/03cran.html?pagewanted=print&_r=1&
And this copy and paste:
August 3, 2008
URBAN STUDIES | MEMORIALIZING
Where Seven Died, a ‘Shining Star’
By JASON GRANT
MAKESHIFT memorials spring up in the city with sad regularity. Secured to a lamppost at some busy intersection, a bouquet of flowers honors a bicyclist who was accidentally struck and killed. Or perhaps an unofficial mourner has attached to the wall of some battered warehouse a bright wreath marking the lost life of a construction worker who died in the performance of a duty that proved all too hazardous.
In most cases, these touching memorials are soon swept away by the weather, or by passers-by who notice that the flowers or wreaths have wilted or fallen to the ground.
But on 50th Street near Second Avenue is a memorial that has been expanding for months, growing in complexity, size and emotional impact. In the wake of a crane collapse on 51st Street east of Second Avenue that killed seven people in March, a homeless man who lives on East 50th Street has built and maintained an intricate memorial.
This makeshift marker comes complete with a table and chairs, candles and blown-glass vases, and includes a sapling and tree branches painted white. Lovingly assembled, the display features a flowery yellow centerpiece, ceramic pots and a vivid piece of art painted on an eight-foot-high sheet of plywood.
Today, more than three months after he began assembling it, Roy Holder, the homeless man, still cleans and cares for his creation seven days a week.
“I tried to set up a memorial that meant something,” said Mr. Holder, who is 54 and has lived on this stretch between First and Second Avenues for seven years. “This is a shining star amongst the muck and the mud.”
After the crane accident, “I cried inside,” he said. “I was emotionally hurt. What I needed to do was help people that needed help. And part of helping was this memorial.”
Almost every item in the memorial, Mr. Holder said, came from his rummaging through trash cans, or picking up items that had been discarded to the street. “Everything I’m blessed to get comes out of the garbage, other people’s waste,” he said.
Mr. Holder is careful, however, to credit the appearance of both the sapling and the sprawling painting of a cross inside a pink-rimmed heart to an unknown man in his 50s who used to come by on weekends and sit in front of the memorial.
On a recent Saturday, a local venture capitalist named Adam Townsend was walking down Second Avenue when he overheard two women talking about the memorial. Curious, he went to see for himself.
“It just kind of stopped me because it was so well done,” he said afterward at a nearby diner, the apartment building first stuck by the crane looming outside the window. “It was done with so much affection. You could really feel a loss for the people who were there.”