St Patrick’s Day Parade signals the ‘Rebirth of Rockaway’
Thousands turn up to celebrate a new era of hope and progress
‘We needed this, this year in particular, more than any other year. It’s just great to see this, the level of pride here in Rockaway, Irish pride, I mean what a wonderful turnout to welcome Rockaway back but let’s continue rebuilding.'
Michael Benn, John Brennan and the rest of their committee certainly did an incredible job organising the event, getting many elected officials down to the beach and making Rockaway the focal point for the weekend, with one of the elected officials being Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.
But the magic of an Irish organisation is leaving a little room to be disorganised, leaving time for chatter, time for laughter, time for crowd involvement unseen in other parades and this was exemplified when President of the parade committee Mike Benn had to be reminded to stop talking to the crowd and march on.
‘Mike, the parade’s starting. Mike, the parade’s starting. Mike!' shouted the voice from the headphone, to laughs from the crowd and the parade continued on in that laid back and jovial manner. The crowd and marchers intertwined sporadically along the whole route.
‘Hello’s’ and ‘Howya’s’ were shouted, sneaky hugs and high fives given. The traditional pipes and drums filled the air and endless, appreciative claps from cold hands joined them, taking on a charming tune of their own.
Homes and businesses were opened up all along the neat, narrow roads with people seeming to flow in and out, from one to the other, smiles being their unspoken passwords, proof once again that Rockaway really is the close-knit friendly community it paints itself as.
Newport Avenue, Beach Street and Rockaway beach were layered in green. Green flags, bunting and balloons were hung. Green t shirts, skirts, dresses, trousers, hats and jackets were worn, making a continual, symbolic paper chain. One colour they have never worn in the tumultuous aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was cowardly yellow.
One of the many vendors around Rockaway was selling t-shirts with ‘baby steps’ emblazoned on the front, referring to the need to keep rebuilding and renovating, to get Rockaway back to what it was before. But this event was more than just a baby step. A giant step was taken. This was not just a parade, it was a celebration of the human spirit, as indomitable and as powerful as Mother Nature, even on her cruellest days.
Hurricane Sandy hit Rockaway on October 29th. On March 2nd, the people of Rockaway hit back. The pipes and drums were their thunder and lightning, the laughter their wind, the cheers their torrential rain and it delivered a killer blow to Sandy. There may be so much more left to do but it’s safe to say that from yesterday that Rockaway is reborn. Rockaway is back.
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