Monday, September 11, 2006

My New York: A Bangladeshi 9/11 Vigil

So it's 9/11 once again and, at least in New York, it's wall to wall coverage. You tend to tune-out the obligatory pumped-up CNN "we all feel the pain" oratory and stick with some of the other coverage including the moving reading of the names at ground zero and the low-key New York 1 recount of how the channel covered the attacks as it happened five years ago. The blogosphere is awash in commentary so let me just point out to this thoughtful piece posted on Keith Boykin's site and Bernard Tarver's comments on why, five years later, he is finally able to deal with the tragedy.

Us? Well, earlier in the week I noticed the poster above which invited people in the neighborhood to gather at 37th Avenue and 75th Street at 8:30pm for a candle-light vigil. The poster had a Bangladeshi flag super-imposed on top of a United States flag but the website address on the poster didn't lead to a working website. No problem! I thought! It seemed just as appropriate a place to honor 9/11 with other communities in my neighborhood.

So the boyfriend and I made our way to the gathering place and by the time we got there, a group of 40 to 50 men were holding American flags and copies of the poster I had seen earlier. There were a few women, but, like us, they didn't seem from Bangladesh. Others were passing out candles and we took some and joined the crowd.

One group started leading the gatherers towards 74th Street until they were angrily stopped by other men who diverted the participants up towards Roosevelt Avenue on 75th. Photographers had also shown up as well as some men with video-cameras. A debate seemed to further delay the vigil as a couple of men stood in front of the banner and others got shouted out of the front position. The dispute got angrier and all of a sudden two of the men started shouting for cameramen to stop taping or shooting pictures. "No cameras! NO cameras!" probably realising that the growing anger between organizers was being captured by media. They managed to take a walk around the block without the dissipation of vigil marchers but, as I took some photos of the those up-front, I saw my boyfriend approaching me with a stunned face, candle in hand, telling me: " I can't believe it! I just got thrown out!"

Apparently one of the marchers had noticed him and wouldn't stop telling him "Bangladesh only! Leave!"

OMG! I could't believe it! A public peaceful candle-light vigil that turns contentious! Calls for media to leave when things turn not so peaceful! My boyfriend being asked to leave because he wasn't Bangladeshi! It was so over the top ridiculous that I started to laugh! My boyfriend, recovering from feeling shocked and insulted, started to laugh with me. "Kicked out of a 9/11 vigil!" I kept saying, and it only made me laugh harder. Only in New York, kids! Only in New York.

In any case, I did some research on the organizers and lo-and-behold, I found out a bit more. No wonder the whole experience seemed like a set up for some sort of patriotic and political photo-op rather than what vigils are supposed to convey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How incredibly insensitive and bizarre. You don't go into much about the research you did..and which led you to believe that this was more a staged photoshoot than anything else. It would be great if you could spill the beans..?