Three young men, Amaury Rodriguez, 30, Heriberto Suazo, 26, and Luis Catalan, 25, were shot and killed on a quiet neighborhood street in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan last June. It took the NYPD only two weeks to arrest the man who killed them. It's been seven months and their families are still in mourning.
These photos were taken today. There is always a bouquet of white roses taped to this tree. There is always a note. And the air around the note is filled with sadness and loss. This tree stands next to the curb where the car was parked back in June, where they were all killed. The older, dead flowers are not always taken down. They are not replaced, but rather joined by fresh flowers. The flowers are always white roses.
In this photo from last fall, the "BANGA" reference calls for gun control and the photo is of one of the boys. There was a tall white memorial candle taped to the base of the tree and I saw it lit once.
This is a photo from late in the summer; August, I think. When I wrote about the event right after it happened, I was critical of the mother. It was easy to assume she was also involved in drug dealing or use. It was me acting out of my own sense of loss. I wanted to blame someone other than the three boys. They had been stealing from drug dealers, the papers said. But they were loved by a woman who comes to this tree all the time. I am hoping she finds some comfort in the current efforts to control access to guns, but I think it's bigger than that.
This is a new kind of tree memorial. In the past, trees were planted and plaques were laid to commemorate an event or the death of a politician. Near this street, closer to Riverside Church, there is a lovely tree memorial to the chaplains who, after their boat was sunk in a battle during WW I, gave their lifevests to their fellow seamen. The chaplains drowned, but their comrades were saved and the tree that was planted bore witness to that memorial.
But this is different, I think. This tree bore witness to their murder and the memorial clings to the only thing close enough to the event.
I write this now because I watch as she mourns. In all these months of taping the flowers, writing the notes, and posting signs, I have never seen her, or at least I don't think I have seen her. There was a woman once, right after it happened, who was talking to police near this tree, but I wouldn't recognize her now.
So, I want gun control to get in the way of killing. I want gun control so that mothers, wives, and families can live out their lives together without the terrible pain that I still see here at this tree so many months later. This woman claims this tree as her own memorial to her son and we are wrong if we don't watch her and share in her loss. The killer on that day in June took something from all of us the same way the killer in Newtown or Aurora or Columbine did. We all lose something precious every time someone is killed with a gun.
Photos by me, 2012, 2013