Friday, September 9, 2011

The Sunday before

The Sunday before, before 9-11, was September 9th, 2001. A beautiful sunny day. It was the weekend the city had its labor celebrations. (Never on Labor Day weekend, even workers deserve the holiday named for them.) West-Park was participating in Labor to the Pulpit Sunday where union representatives woild come and speak as part of regular Sunday worship.
Our music director at the time, Bill Schimmel, accordionist extraordinaire, who Andre once described as beyond brilliant, had brought his friend Paul Stein, a long time cultural worker who plays for unions and homeless people. Paul brought a collection of old union/worker songs even including some yiddishkeit. Our guests were restaurant and service workers. Our religion/labor coalition had joined in their struggle against the Metroplitan Opera, it’s restaurant and cafes. We had plannned a picket line for the Met’s opening night. 
Opening night was to be Thursday. Tuesday, of course, was 9-11. Thursday I called a clergy friend. Look, I said, I’m assuming the protest is off...just wantng to be sure.  Oh, he said, you don’t know. The union lost over 150 workers at the Towers....
Later, we would have a memorial service at St. Mary’s in Harlem to remember them. We also leaerned that among the dead were many undocumented workers. People without papers. People who technically didn’t exist. Their families, fearing deportation, never reported them missing. They were never counted. How many might there have been? Their names will not  appear on the memorial.  A few weeks later, the Franciscans at Holy Name Church, spiritual home of many immigrants,  organized a service in memory of those unreported persons who had died.
Behind my desk, in my old office, was a photo taken on September 5th at our last organizing meeting before the scheduled action. Clergy and workers,  mostly Latino, standing together, smiling. I would look at the photo, wonder how many made it, how many did not.

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