With the backdrop of Rockin’ Ray Fiore’s heartfelt mural on the handball courts of Bill Brown Park (Avenue X and Bedford Avenue), more than one hundred mourners, neighbors, firefighters from Ladder Co. 169, 61st Precinct officers and local EMS responders gathered last night to remember the lives lost on September 11, 2001.
But it wasn’t just a tribute to those who passed and the heroes of the day, it was a passing of the torch from the eclectic neighborhood character who maintains the memorial mural to his son, who is taking on the responsibility after his father’s move out of Brooklyn.
Fiore moved to Michigan recently, removing from the neighborhood his colorful hand-painted car and, perhaps, one of Brooklyn’s most ebullient sons. His son, Ray Fiore, Jr., took his place, and last night marked the 31-year-old’s first visit to the mural on September 11.
He brought fire engine red and royal blue paint to touch up any chips in the names, as his father does during the event and throughout the year, and he was asked to add two more names to the mural. He spent much of the memorial ceremony up close to the mural, working on it diligently throughout the night, but said he really felt the significance of it when he was able to take a step back and admire it.
Ray Jr. led the mourners in saying the Our Father, like his father had done in years past. A note was read from “Rockin’ Ray” that sent his love in his absence, and the song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was played in honor of him.
Freelance photographer Marissa Wong has been chronicling the stories of Brooklyn’s longest street since November 2011 on her website, Bedford. In March, Marissa got in touch with Sheepshead Bites after stumbling upon the 9/11 memorial mural at Bill Brown Playground (Avenue X and Bedford Avenue), and asked us to put her in touch with its creator, Ray Fiore. The above video is what resulted, detailing the rise of the most uniquely Brooklyn memorial to emerge after the September 11 attack, and Wong wrote the following for Sheepshead Bites:
“It’s a League of Nations, we got a little bit of everybody,” laughed Regina Coyle when I asked her to say a little bit about Brooklyn. We were standing in front of the Bedford Park 9/11 mural and Regina was telling me about when she lost her son, James Raymond Coyle, over 10 years ago.
She was right. Since moving to Brooklyn two years ago, I’ve been trying to capture that little bit of everybody with the Bedford Avenue Project – a collection of multimedia stories about the many different voices that make up Brooklyn’s longest street. From a Hasidic rebel-turned-blogger to the locally renowned Queen of Williamsburg, the project has been a true ethnographic adventure, allowing me a sneak peek into the borough’s diverse hearts and souls.
Most recently, I was honored to meet the Bedford People’s Park 9/11 Memorial Committee and the infamous “Rockin’ Ray” Fiore. Listening to each of their candid stories, I was reminded of the “League of Nations” that is Brooklyn. “Ray, White & Blue” is the video piece I created from those conversations and a brief glimpse into the community of Sheepshead Bay.
I hope you’ll stay tuned for more voices, more stories, and more Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn/Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial and Candle Vigil is at Bill Brown Park, Avenue X and Bedford Avenue, at 6:30 p.m. today.
Rockin' Ray Fiore touches up the memorial wall during the event. (Photo by Erica Sherman)
The weather looked dreadful in the hours leading up to the Brooklyn / Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial yesterday evening, honoring the fallen friends and families of those who passed 10 years ago. But minutes before it kicked off, the gray skies parted, and sunlight lanced the cloud cover, bathing in dusk’s glow the 350 or so that gathered at Bill Brown Park.
That gave an extra jolt of confidence to the previously fretful organizers, who had scuddled about for four hours before the event’s start, hanging flags, setting candles and preparing equipment. And as the splash of sunlight heralded the event, organizers played their call-to-arms – Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” interlaced with soundbytes of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 rhetoric.
In Sheepshead Bay, there exists few more deserving subjects of a spotlight then the Brooklyn/Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial, splattered upon a handball court on Avenue X and Bedford Avenue.
We’ve covered memorial events at the park before (here, here and here), and scribbled superficially about the wall’s and memorial committee’s creation. But Robert Fieseler, a student journalist at Columbia University’s Brooklyn Ink, recently published a full-on rundown of the memorial wall and the cast of characters that give it its heart.
According to Fiore, he put brush to paint after volunteering in “the Pit” at Ground Zero. Digging his work gloves into the rubble of the buildings on September 12, Fiore said he felt the touch of God. It’s a touch, he insists, that gave him the inspiration to paint the mural.
“I couldn’t do nothing for people that were already dead,” said Fiore, “so I had to do this.” On September 17, 2001, he loaded up on buckets of paint and headed to the handball court. It’s a mission that Fiore repeats like praying. Among the names regularly retouched is Lucy Fishman, 37, an executive secretary who worked for the Aon Corporation on the 105th floor of Tower Two.
Fishman received the same depiction as James Coyle: traced in red, printed in blue. Her sister, Mary Dwyer, 43, and mother, Mary Bracken, 69, are also members of the memorial committee. “We haven’t forgotten these people’s names on the wall,” said Dwyer, who buried the thighbone and femur of her sister. “Not hers. Not ever. As long as we have that wall, we’ll be here.”
Supporting “Mary and Mary” serves as the driving motivation for memorial committee members. Through the committee, Errante, Gray and Dwyer developed into close friends. “This is not why people should meet,” said Gray. “I would give up these friendships if it meant that Mary and Mary had Lisa back.”
The Brooklyn/Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial Committee will host its 10th annual ceremony on September 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
New words grace the American flag painted on the handball courts of Bill Brown Park, a mural which pays tribute to victims of the September 11 attacks.
“Truly now, they can rest in peace. May 1st, 2011 – God prevails. Yes, God and goodness always win,” the flag now reads.
Just hours after President Barack Obama announced to the world that members of the nation’s armed forces exacted vengeance upon the world’s most wanted criminal, Osama Bin Laden, local artist and activist Ray Fiore bought paint and made his way to the park on Bedford Avenue and Avenue X. Just as he did in the days after September 11, 2001, Rockin’ Ray – as neighbors know him – waited there for inspiration, dipped paint into bucket, and began his work.
We weren’t able to get our videos of the Brooklyn/Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial processed on Monday, when we gave our coverage and photo gallery. Technical complications delayed it until now. Many of the songs played in between speakers, as well as inaudible speakers, were cut out to save time. But we left some of that local flare in when we could – especially in our final video. Enjoy.
This year was the first time I was able to make the Brooklyn/Bedford Park 9/11 Memorial, a colorful grassroots service with a character so unapologetically Brooklyn.
This was not a traditional event. Politicians didn’t show up just to show up, taking off to the next microphone and photo-op; nor was it small and forgotten. It boasted, easily, 350 people at minimum. The mood swung from somber to joyous, as smiles and singing surmounted the oppressive stoicism in which memorials too often find themselves mired.
The 9th Anniversary of the September 11 attacks is upon us, and organizers have scheduled the Sheepshead Bay 9/11 Memorial and Candlelight Vigil for tomorrow, 6:30 p.m., rain or shine.
Attendees are gathering in the Bill Brown Park handball court at Avenue X and Bedford Avenue, in front of the memorial wall painted by Rockin’ Fay Fiore, which features the names of locals who perished during the tragic event nine years ago.
On a personal note, much has happened over the past year to inflame tensions in the community. But September 11 is a day that I would hope we can all put aside our differences and come together as neighbors to honor those who have fallen. I’ll be at the memorial and I hope to see many of you there, too.
Ray Fiore, whose community work and artwork is well-noted, is gaining notoriety for his involvement in sports as a charitable boxer.
A boxing training organization called H.O.N.K — Help Our Neighborhood Kids — that he is heading will benefit many neighborhood kids.
Ray is inviting everyone to come out to his Sheepshead Bay-based boxing center for an Open House and rockin’ Fundraising Party. Don’t forget to bring your checkbooks, because the H.O.N.K. center will soon be a not-for-profit set up to help keep neighborhood kids off the streets and engaged in sports.
Ray and his team have been working hard towards this goal and he gained media attention with a mention of his project in a New York Times article in 2007. Late last year, the New York Daily News featured Ray and his charitable project. With the information about the Open House and the Fundraising Party posted here and at GerritsenBeach.net, we hope that supporters will show up feeling generous so that the kids will not have to lay down the gloves.
Here are the details:
Saturday, March 21, 2009 Open House from Noon until 6 p.m. Fundraiser party from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
There will be Beer / Wine / Beverages / Heroes
DJ Ross Failace, Richie Moore and DJ Richie Noodles will be spinning the hottest mixes for your enjoyment all night long!
There will be a couple of COMICS performing to rip your funny bone apart, Joey Gay of “LAST COMIC STANDING” and others!