On the sidewalks a sea of green enveloped the Manhattan horizon as far as the eyes could see. I found myself humming the Beatles lyrics, “Sky of blue and sea of green” from "Yellow Submarine."
Everyone seemed surrounded by friends at this Celtic feast of the arrival of spring, which was the feast of Imbolc in Celtic mythology, the time of the year when darkness departed and the sun began its merry climb across the sky and winter was banished and young lovers thrived.
Two million showed up to recreate our heritage and salute our springtime in the greatest city in the world in the greatest country on the globe in the finest planet in the Milky Way.
It’s at times like this you miss the old crowd, the Paul O'Dwyer’s and the Frank Durcan's who gave their everything for the Irish in the city but never marched because of the old exclusionary rules. Yet they did more for the Irish than a thousand grand Poohbahs of the parade who sought to hold on to the grimy grip they had on the future.
Then this year the cascade broke and enlightened men and women took over. Suddenly the parade was inclusive again, like a patient recovering it never looked better than this fine March morning.
Let us name some on that role of honor: John Lahey, Hilary Beirne, Sean Lane, Frank Comerford... The list could go on and on, but let us thank them for restoring the good name of inclusivity in the same sentence as Irish.
It would not be the parade but for some skullduggery. This time it was an Italian stand-off over who would steal a march first – the governor or the mayor. Andrew Cuomo grabbed the initiative and, with Mayor de Blasio vainly watching, Cuomo grabbed the showtime lead spot where he wasn’t supposed to be and set off a furious pace leading the Fighting 69th, the greatest Irish regiment of all.
Welcome to New York politics where priorities change in a New York minute. Maybe we’d have had the two Italians haggling like Irish fishwives, but alas De Blasio never caught up.
De Blasio would later make up for his wounded pride and ego by marching with Lavender and Green and we all had to wonder what the fuss was about as we saw a group of Irishmen and women – with the tall mayor towering over everybody – make their way up Fifth.
We looked in vain for signs of the horsemen of the apocalypse, but there was only a yellow orb in the sky, positively identified as the sun by several parade goers. It blazed away as they walked up Fifth.
Not long before them the man who was deposed as parade chairman, John Dunleavy, marched with the United Irish Counties and was embraced by the Cardinal at the steps of St Patrick's Cathedral.
It was surely the time to let bygones be bygones and let the old exclusionary ways go and the Irish America of yesteryear fade.
Certainly everything yesterday pointed to the most successful march in years, if not decades.
My two most emotional moments, while watching later from the beautifully appointed American Irish Historical Society, were the appearance of legendary and heroic policeman Steve McDonald and the firemen with their 349 flags remembering their fallen brethren of 9/11.
That is what the parade is about – honoring heroes amid the canyons of New York.
We could do it unencumbered by any other issues yesterday.
We were a united nation once again. Long may it stay that way.